Life lessons learned from illness & injury

I have spent most of my life feeling quite good, no serious illnesses or injuries until age 53. Then one sunny May morning I went out for a leisurely bike ride around my neighborhood and ended up unconscious on the ground with a traumatic brain injury, fractured ribs and contusions all over my body. Healing took months and certain parts would never be the same again, especially my brain.

LESSON #1: Most people have no idea how to react to or respond to life-threatening injuries. No, an e-mail or text doesn’t cut it, and phone calls don’t work well with brain injury patients.

Life went on with significant brain challenges for the next nine years, until I received an unexpected diagnosis of COPD last year. This included a fair chance of developing lung cancer in my future.

LESSON #2: Friends and acquaintances who presently have no known illness (yet!), may feel lucky or even superior. You poor schmuck. They may also look for reasons why this could never happen to them. (You smoked right? NO!)

caregivers are angelsMy most recent unfortunate illness was most revealing in terms of friendship. I acquired a horrible and easily transmittable infection last October. Granted it is communicable and I would not want even my worst enemy to contract it, BUT

there is nothing so depressing as feeling extremely ill and TOXIC at the same time…

If you don’t believe me, try it sometime!

LESSON #3: Serious illness is perhaps the only way to find out who really cares about you, and who does not. Caregivers are angels!

The thing I find most interesting about those out there who feel superior to those who are suffering, is that we all will experience some sort of terminal illness or injury someday, because we all will die of something. It’s just a matter of time…

Ram Dass Walking each other home

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9 thoughts on “Life lessons learned from illness & injury

  1. My best friend from childhood, who had cancer twice (she did not survive the second one) once told me that not only did her first cancer teach her who her friends were and who weren’t, but some of the findings were not at all what she had expected – “close” friends fled, and people not so close were suddenly her angels and became her new lifelong friends. There is an angel friend in my 90 year old mother in law’s life, too, as her health and memory continue to deteriorate. It is so easy to take life for granted. That is our biggest mistake.

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  2. I remember that feeling well. Doctors and nurses coming in wearing gowns and masks and having to stay away from people. It does something to your mind after a while. No matter how many showers you take you just don’t feel clean while it’s going on. I hope I never get C-diff again! I hope you have recovered!

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  3. When my husband was going thru chemo we truly saw who would stand by us and help us thru. We ran a chocolate shop at the time and the week that he had to do 5 hour per day chemo sessions was also the week of Valentine’s day. One of our friends drove down from Maine to Connecticut and worked 12 hour days in the shop with me the entire week. Another came in to check on him and I put her to work and she stayed until closing. His cousins showed up as well. All we’re women. Not a single male friend or relative asked what he could do to help him keep his business afloat.

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  4. Jennifer: GREAT OBSERVATION! I heard about a study a while back where support systems were evaluated before and after a brain cancer diagnosis. Wives tended to stick with their husbands through treatment. Husbands tended to vaporize at the word “CANCER.”

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  5. Hi Laura Lee, it certainly at these times that true friendships shine through. I find now that I have quality over quantity with friendships and have no doubt that my friends would be there to support me no matter what. I’m pretty lucky that way.

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  6. Great article. I’ve found out more or less the same things in my path. Also, that you are never too young to begin looking after yourself. And yet, there is nothing you can do to prevent life events from happening…

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