In my last blog “Is Fear the Best Motivator?” I wrote about how I feel external influences can negatively affect someone newly diagnosed with a health condition. But with or without a diagnosis, many of us spend a lot of time thinking about our health. This is good, to a certain extent. But perhaps we need to stop and consider if we are getting the balance right?
A few years ago my husband Jonathan, myself, and our old dog Jessie, sold our house and went traveling around New Zealand in a caravan. Jessie was 14 when we started. She was elderly, and the vet said she probably had cancer, and maybe 6 months to live. We decided not to put her through any tests, but would keep a close eye on her and if pain became an issue we would have to make decisions.
Jessie made caravaning a bit more of an effort. We always had to call ahead and make sure the campground that claimed it would accept dogs would really accept dogs. A caravan is a small space, and Jessie being a Retriever X, we got used to walking around this giant lump on the floor. Toilet breaks, shade, no dogs allowed signs, dog washes, finding a vet for her arthritis medication etc.
Jessie had the time of her life, and lived for two and a half more years. She was with us all the time, new places, new smells, and new friends. She didn’t know she was elderly and she didn’t know she had cancer.
Looking back, our dog Jessie absolutely made that trip. We joined her in living in the present. Rain, shine, or snow, Jessie wanted a walk, and she got it because we knew her days were numbered. Jessie didn’t want to miss a beach, lake or muddy puddle. Without Jessie we would have driven past so many little walks and towns and even just grassy verges with cows watching on.
Now why did I randomly throw in this story about my dog?
Because all our days are numbered. We know it, but I start to wonder if we are being reminded about it too often. Is following the latest list of instructions to avoid the current trend in health scares really enhancing our quality of life?
We are lucky to live in a society that has more health information and
treatment options than ever before. So it seems a shame if we allow this
to become detrimental in any way.
These days it is impossible to remain as ignorant as my lovely old dog did. But we can try to limit the damage. Maybe we don’t need to read every article. Perhaps it may be more beneficial to spend time enriching our lives rather than digesting the latest health report. And we can try to stop beating ourselves up for being human, you’re not the only one who likes chocolate biscuits.
We can also try and be more aware of others who are living with a health condition. How we think about them, talk about them, and talk to them. We are so influenced by the sensational news stories, we have to remember we haven’t heard everyone’s story. It is very human to catastrophize a diagnosis, or even be a little judgemental about some conditions, but is this helpful to anyone?
In my opinion focusing on the quantity of our lives at the expense of the quality seems a misuse of our time. It is a balancing act. And every now and then we need to remind ourselves of this fact, so we don't risk becoming overwhelmed with the research and reports, and forget what life is really about.
So I will leave you with a couple of things I would want anyone newly diagnosed with a life-changing health condition to keep in mind:
Firstly, your diagnosis does not define who you are. Nobody has seen their life's blueprints. Unexpected twists and turns are part of every life. You are still you, so keep living!
Don’t listen to all the bad stuff. You are not the sum of all the studies. You are an individual whose future will be your own.
If you have been recently diagnosed with a condition, there is a lot of support available out there. See our Useful Links for dementia or brain injury sites. For all diagnoses Health Navigator NZ has a very comprehensive list of support services.
I thought I would share this with you today. It has been around for a number of years now, but I still love it.