Health and Happiness

(Last Updated On: 9. Juli 2007)

Dedicated to Jeanne

Vierblätteriges Kleeblatt

For Jeanne’s „Cancer Bloggers Join Forces Again: Health and Happiness

My friend Jeanne Sather, „The Assertive Cancer Patient“, has just initiated an action to collect contributions to her blog in context of serious and life-limiting illnesses. Here is mine…

Also in German language, proverbs and aphorisms on health are widely spread and often used, and they are accompanying us in each period of our lives. As long as we are not affected by a life-threatening perspective we are using them freely, even if their importance is often not quite real. Isn’t it only natural to be healthy? And is it possible to influence it safely, and thus remain healthy? Good wishes and proverbs concerning health are omnipresent, they started already before we were born. „Will it be a girl or a boy?“ For expectant parents of the still unborn tiny human being the answer is obligatory: „Whatever it will be, what matters most is that it will be healthy.“

How fragile is the human nature, we fade it out though as long as we are young and in top form. The feeling of invulnerability and immortality prevents us from thinking about this fragility permanently, or living in constant fear of it. And it’s good the way it is.

The severe blow of one’s own health being irreparably affected by a cancer diagnosis is far away – until it happens. Cancer is curable. After this diagnosis, even intelligent people tend to confront us again and again with „healing“. Being the affected person oneself, a different understanding of finiteness grows. It must not happen inevitably in the course of a lifetime. „Only“ every other person must sometime or other understand this diagnosis.

It took me a long time to recover a bit from it. For at least one year the only feeling I had was that my last years are slipping away and that in future I will inevitably have to abandon everything I love. This feeling was worst when I looked at my son who was only 11 years old then. I felt like I stood on the tracks while the train, the disaster, approached at terrific speed – and I stood paralyzed. Bliss is, not to have to leave your child.

All this didn’t exactly make me happy, on the contrary. After I had lived through chemotherapy I started working again. Therapies continued, at first one year of weekly infusions of cytostatically effective drugs, then on a monthly basis. After six years I stopped „to arm myself to the teeth with medicine.“ Did these drugs save my life, did they prolong it, or have they only damaged me additionally? I don’t know any more. This tightrope walk was not particularly easy. In addition, continued medical checks. Waiting for „the judgment.“ Permission to live on. The delicious happiness after good results usually lasts for a few days until new discomforts raise new questions, there’s never an end to it. During the first years, I had plenty of reasons to cry. The others lived on … and I? The door back into my old life is closed, forever. Sometimes I had to find a room to lock myself in. These were the days when all sadness of the world embraced me, rien ne vas plus. The nights were and will remain the worst, by far. Night is the scene of fear. Panic is crawling up my spine.

It means happiness to me that my son is „healthy“. Two years after my own diagnosis, when he was suspected of having bone cancer in one of his legs, I had my hardest times. A film ran through my mind’s eye. All the things that would happen now. Then the all clear was given. Bliss and relief were utopia. Happiness means that my husband survived a severe car accident last year. My work means happiness, and being able to walk distances again now, after I could almost not walk at all for one year. Again suspected of a tumor, first a friend, then me. All clear, and happiness – under the sword of Damocles.

Since my diagnosis, I mostly find happiness in small, simple things, in friendships and precious people whom I met always and especially through my illness.

One lives „more intensively“, „more consciously“, „diagnosis breast cancer, the best thing that could happen to me“, all those descriptions saying that cancer is the big turning point to the positive, they only cause my resistance. Health is important, but not the measure of all things. Affection is precious, endurance and courage and effort. Happiness does not mean to turn away, happiness means to stay.

Gudrun

Links:

German Version / Text in deutscher Sprache
Jeanne Sather’s Blog „The Assertive Cancer Patient
Jeanne’s Action „Cancer Bloggers Join Forces Again

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