A dear friend received his diagnosis: esophageal cancer. The outlook? Not good. Just a few months previously another good friend, was diagnosed with a rare intestinal bleeding disorder. There wasn’t much hope, but there was a small glimmer.
Each approached their diagnosis in a unique way, but both shared one common trait: they stayed positive in the face of great adversity.
Getting Physical Help
Both friends went about getting help for their physical condition in a different way.
We will call the first friend Mike, to protect his identity. Mike knew that something was wrong long before he went to see a doctor. Lacking insurance, he refused to go on the grounds that he could not afford it, which it turns out was a very true concern.
By the time he did go, he wasn’t able to eat most things, and was barely able to drink. Esophageal cancer is extremely aggressive, and hard to cure even if caught early. In this case, things had progressed pretty far.
At the urging of his girlfriend at the time, he sought treatment and did a few rounds of traditional chemo and radiation. There are, of course, experimental treatments but they were expensive: far beyond what he could afford. Every clinic wanted a promise to pay from someone besides him, or a huge down payment, or payments there was no way he could pay.
Still he stayed positive, not because he knew deep down he would make it, but because even though he knew he wouldn’t, he’s lived a good life. It wasn’t that he didn’t wish he had more time, but that he cherished the time he had. We drank, we laughed, and we did the best we could to make good memories.
Finally, he refused more chemo and any more attempts at a cure. Everything that could be reasonably done had been done. We all said our goodbyes.
Mike passed on in December of 2015.
Susie took an entirely different approach. She decided right away, with the support of her parents, to fight. At first, no one even knew what was wrong with her. It took several scopes and colonoscopies, all very painful, to even get a clue.
Thanks to a friend, she was referred to Xpertdox a service that found doctors who specialized in rare and serious diseases, and connecting them with patients.
She found a specialist in the Northwest who agreed to treat her, starting with a series of experimental surgeries. It turned out she was one of nine people in the world diagnosed with her condition, and seven of those nine were dead.
It took two years and several near-death experiences before she was pronounced stable. Susie is not cured: she never will be, but for now, her condition is stable and she goes about her normal life.
Getting Mental Help
The thing Mike and Susie both shared is that throughout their journeys, each managed to remain fun, positive, and great people to be around. Why? Both got mental help as well, but not just from a professional counselor. Both did similar things to keep themselves looking at the blessings they had.
Reaching out to Family
Susie had her parents. Even though they did not always get along in the past and even throughout this tragedy, they were always there for her. Her two brothers also came alongside her, helping her where they could.
Mostly, that meant just being there when she needed an ear, or taking her meals and providing her with a place to stay. Regardless of their past, they were family.
Mike had his kids. He was unmarried, but had been living with the same woman for quite some time, and she was really his spouse in all but legal ways. His children, scattered around the country, came to visit, and he took time to spend with every one of them. Wounds were healed, forgiveness was offered and accepted, grace was extended.
Surrounding Themselves with Friends
Both Mike and Susie had amazing groups of friends. They supported them financially, spiritually, and physically through offering rides, sitting by hospital bedsides, and throwing victory parties even when small things went well.
These friends kept them grounded to reality, and the fact that there were blessings and good things in spite of their circumstances.
Friends can challenge us, keep us mentally sharp, influence us toward good decisions, and even help extend our lives. Both Susie and Mike realized these benefits and took advantage of them.
There are limits to how much your friends can take, how much you can vent to them. Family and friends who are dealing with the potential loss of a loved one often begin the grieving process even before that person is gone.
It’s hard for someone who is ill to hold it together for those around them, and they need a safe place to vent, cry, and mourn. That place is often found in professional counseling. Mike and Susie both knew this, and both sought help outside their family and friend groups, a safe place where they could truly be themselves.
It worked. Mike was a joyful person to be around even until the last few weeks before his passing. Susie is today a more thankful and forgiving person than she ever was, and assigns value to every single day.
They both are proof that we can be mentally healthy even in the midst of the worst of physical hardships. In fact, those hardships can inspire us to get the help we need.