Monday, April 16, 2012

i/we are NOT our diagnosis

Today's blog is totally inspired by my friend, Brenda, who is struggling with yet another life changing diagnosis. One I am sure she would not want to add to the one she already has but as I always say, "It is what it is, and this is what she has been given, wanted or not." The statement that, 'i/we are NOT our diagnosis' hit me yesterday as I was thinking and swinging on my swing, starring at the beauty before me. Brenda now trying to figure out what she will do and how she will live with her new diagnosis. I wondered back to the beginning of my illnesses and I remember the feeling and thoughts that this cannot be happening. It was quite a hellish time for us, but now as I look back the shock, hurt, and pain of diagnosis has somewhat faded as I learn to live differently, as Brenda does and will need to figure out even more with her new diagnosis. I have complete confidence she will be just fine, eventually.

I/we are NOT our diagnosis. Granted there are those times during increased pain and other symptoms our illness does define us and our life. It defines our heart and soul, the deep down core of who we are. Still we function with a "normal" brain and thoughts as everyone else does. We still have hopes, dreams, hobbies, families, jobs for some, friends we love and adore, we love to laugh, etc, you see we are no different than you. For me, since my diagnosis my passion for all of these has intensified. The little things are so special to me. You see diagnosis for me is not all doom and gloom. I cannot say that at first when I was going through test after test, crying all the time, wondering why and thinking I cannot do this, but over time that changes. After the years as they roll on the thought process changes and the little things like spending some time with someone, or watching a tv show, making love to my husband, hugging and kissing my grand babies, getting a card in the mail, people telling me they are praying for me, brings on something new. A new appreciation. Your heart and soul become much more connected and aware of the beautiful little things that surround you. All the things you never had the time to notice when you were so crazy busy and out in the world. You see, i/we are NOT our diagnosis.

It is always so fascinating to me how people act when someone is diagnosed with cancer. I hear the gasps of air when someone hears the news, almost as if the life of the one with the cancer is over when in reality many more people survive cancer than those who do not. This always makes me wonder why we are so afraid of disease and we do not look at it as a wake up call, for all of us? Why don't we embrace it? Grow from it? Look at it as not only our wake up call but our gift. Our gift that puts everything into perspective, to teach us that the little things in life are just that, little. Why can't the people around us who flee, understand we are still living, still like them, still alive, and still need them?
I am not all the drugs I take, I am not contagious, I am Dianne, not a sick person who needs or wants your sympathy. I just want to be treated like everyone else and need a little bit of simple understanding, not pity. If I had the choice to be ill or not be ill I'm not sure which I would pick. It isn't like people go around saying or thinking, "Oh yes, I'll take that disease," but with that being said, if I had the choice to keep all the things that illness has taught me I think I would have to say, "yes, I will take that."  i/we are NOT our diagnosis!

As you can see, in some ways I really am my diagnosis. It has formed me into the person I am today. Why I feel I need to suffer in silence is beyond me but it is what the real world expects. For me it is always there. When I feel good and I open my big mouth and tell Rich I had a really good day, the next day I might wake up horrible. Just when I think maybe the nightmare is over it returns with a vengeance, but that is okay because I can handle it. I am now an expert at taking care of myself, it is my job. I have the control over my thinking and even when I want to give in I tell my illness, "You will never get a hold of that so the joke is on you. You make rack my body with these symptoms but my way of thinking is mine!" i am NOT my diagnosis!

In the ending of this entry it is my hope that if you have a friend, family member, coworker or anyone in your life who has been struck with illness, long term or short, remember they are still a person. They still need you there to bring some normalcy to their lives. You may be the only one who does. Take the time to forget their illness and about their diagnosis and just be a friend. Don't look at them with pity in your eyes, but with the same look you had before they were diagnosed. Make them laugh, tell them stories of your life, tell them about your job, tell them about your trips and share a piece of yourself. Don't act like they are already dead and gone because they are still here and still alive. They still want to hear the good that is happening even though you think they don't.
I had a Hospice patient and her daughter who taught me a lot about this. This woman was suppose to die very fast but she ended up living for months. Her daughter was by her side everyday. I visited her week after week and a few weeks before she died the daughter taught me a very valuable lesson in dealing with the dying. She thanked me, for the last time, as we knew the time was coming for her mother to die. "Dianne, every week you came to visit you brought us a piece of the outside world to us. We loved hearing about your family and your smile brought sunshine to us every week. We looked forward to your visits every week. Thank you! These four walls can get awful lonely at times." She hugged me as we both had tear rolling down our faces. You see, you never ever realize the impact you can have on someone by just a giving someone else a little piece of yourself. What are you going to do?

Remember: i/we are NOT our diagnosis!

God Bless!


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