Making Friends With Your Illness

Whether it is a sign of the times we live in, or maybe age catching up with some of us, these days there seems to be a lot of people we know who are dealing with illness. Deb often accompanies our dear friend Liz while she has chemo: “I am continually touched and impressed by the fellow cancer patients receiving hours of what Liz calls the ‘healing elixir,’ by their cheerfulness and friendship to one another.”

As illness is such a part of being alive, and as resistance creates tension and denial, it is important that we make friends with whatever our circumstances may be. Acceptance creates room for growth, change and even healing.

As Liz says, “As a cancer patient, I can honestly say that cancer is definitely a drag. However, it has also brought many blessings. Instantly I had to start listening to my world, I discovered a sense of space and newness, and LOVE–so much love. Trungpa Rinpoche, my teacher, said that you just have to lean into whatever is happening. He called the experience of living with illness one taste; that whether you get well or not, all conditions have the same one taste.”

Making friends with illness is not easy. Diane has MS, and there are many times she wishes her legs would work better than they do. But she has also realized that fighting them, stressing out, or wishing they were different achieves nothing, while loving them as they are makes the experience one of continual learning and discovery.

Making friends with our reality is also a way of making friends with ourselves. There will always be times when life in the body gets overwhelming or when we argue with reality, but being a friend means being able to accept what is and move on. “Healing can occur even when curing doesn’t,” said Bill Moyers in USA Today. “It is an acceptance of the unavoidable, a grace in living that escapes us if we are simply passive in the face of trouble.”

There is an important distinction between curing and healing. To cure is to fix a particular part. Western medicine is particularly good at doing this, offering drugs and surgery so that disease, illness or physical problems can be suppressed, eliminated or removed. It plays a vital role in alleviating suffering; it is superb at saving lives and applying both curative and palliative aid. This is invaluable.

However, the World Health Organization defines health as complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, which implies a more total state of wellness beyond simply being cured of a symptom or illness. It suggests there is a place of inner healing, where we can be completely at peace whether we are physically well or not.

The word remission is used to describe a period of recovery, when an illness or disease diminishes. A patient is described as being in remission when their symptoms abate. Yet the word can also be read as “re-mission”, to re-find or become reconnected with our purpose or a deeper meaning in life.

Remission also has another, lesser-known meaning, which is forgiveness. This implies that it can occur through forgiving ourselves by accepting our behavior and releasing any guilt, or through accepting and forgiving another and letting go of blame. The power of such forgiveness is enormous.

How do you deal with illness? Can you make friends with it? Do comment below.

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68 comments

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Tim Cheung
Tim C.5 years ago

thanks

Eileen P.
Eileen P.6 years ago

i am a bit late in reading this but thank-you Ed and Deb.......your articles are always full of love.....and they touch me deeply.....

i am a student of a mystical priest (and an Indian guru ) ...
Fr. B. is all about love and his language, (words can be so limiting, sorry!) is to love the disease but not to accept it...for example if it is a virus or a cancer to love the life in it but to tell it to have its life elsewhere...after-all everything is God....

it is the same as what you are saying but with different words....

Buffy F.
Buffy F.6 years ago

With me is like this, I suffer from panics, that has to do with medical conditions and doctors. I believe that the media plays a role on making people sick too.

gail d.
gail dair6 years ago

thanks for sharing

Jewels S.
Jewels S.6 years ago

I have changed in the past few years in regard to pain and illness. I don't take it very well still but found a book that helps me. It is "heal your body" by Louise Hay. Finding an emotional connection to what is ailing me helps me let go of it. I had sciatica last year and the connection was worry about money and the future. I worked through it and got better in a month. I know others that have it go on for years. I used to just try to deny all things unpleasant but now find it easier to work through things. At least most. Still have some things in the barrel to process! Peace.

Mervi R.
Mervi R.6 years ago

Thank you for this thought-provoking post!

Bridget W.
Bridget W.6 years ago

I don't know how you can make friends with MS, it is do unpredictable and debilitating, and I am not it's friend, in fact I hate it

Lucy R.
.6 years ago

Very inspiring stuff.Friends are essential in life. They help you when you need it, listen to whatever you have to say, laugh with you, talk with you….they are the people you choose to spend your time with, share your secrets with, and just have fun with.
m3 real

Linda L.
Linda L.6 years ago

These people are my inspiration...