Life sometimes throws us curveballs. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve encountered illness, pain or emotional discomfort -- often all three at once.
This recently happened to me when it became apparent that my best chance for a long and healthy life was a kidney transplant.
On my own, I honestly couldn’t imagine it. It seemed like my doctors were suggesting the equivalent of space travel to Mars. It took me many months to get to the place of acceptance.
I didn't know how to get there when all I wanted was for the problem to go away. Here's what I learned from this experience.
The road to acceptance has these components: reaching out to other people, getting accurate medical information and trusting in something greater than ourselves. I think each component is important. Trust without medical knowledge limits us, as does knowledge without a support system, and support without trust.
Here are my tried-and-true thoughts about each component.
Reaching out to other people:
Whatever you are going through, someone else is going through as well. Perhaps not in the exact same way, but close enough. To find a kidney donor, I had to go public. This was a challenge, but the benefit was the gift of years of prolonged life and health.
You may not want to share the details of your health so publicly, but do reach out to the people you love and trust. You don’t know where you’ll find the resources that you need. People absolutely want to be helpful if they can be.
I’m not a huge social media person, however, FB has a moderated group of 20 thousand people who have had or will have a kidney transplant. They answered my questions, shared their experiences, celebrated kidney transplant anniversaries. They made me feel less alone.
There are non-profits whose mission it is to help people struggling with an illness. Reach out to an organization for information and support if you have chronic pain, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. I eventually found a donor through, Renewal, an organization that helps facilitate kidney donation.
Getting accurate medical information:
Check reputable websites like the following to learn about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Get more than one opinion, particularly if you have a serious condition. If everyone tells you the same thing, you’ll feel more confident about your treatment.
Get clear on your options.
Often treatment is about trade-offs. Medications and surgery have potential side-effects. Find out the risks and benefits of various treatments. See if acupuncture, life style changes and other forms of complementary care might be able to treat the problem or reduce side-effects of treatment.
Trust in something greater than yourself.
Whatever your personal religious or spiritual beliefs are, we are part of a living, breathing ecosystem. There is a life force that sustains us. The ancient Chinese called this force qi. We are alive because our bodies are designed to take in air and food and water. We live in an interconnected web of life. Sickness is a part of this web, but so is healing and health.
Before we learn to speak and walk and conceptualize things, we are living creatures who breathe without effort, eat and poop. We catch a virus and generally we recover. Outdoors the sun rises and sets, the seasons change, plants grow and produce food. And all of this happens by design.
I find it helpful to lean into this design during times of pain and uncertainty. To feel the support of a life force greater than ourselves. To give ourselves over to that force without attachment to outcome. There is a kind of surrender that allows us to accept whatever may happen. In this state, all is well. (Note: Getting to acceptance takes time for most of us. Stay the course.)
If you belong to a religious organization, talk to the clergy there. If you don’t belong but feel like you need spiritual support, most clergy will talk to you.
If you are hospitalized, there are chaplains on staff.
If you love nature, go sit or take a walk in the woods. I spent many hours at Mount Tom and Arcadia “talking” to the trees, “telling” them I would be back after my surgery.
Do whatever makes you feel whole, go to wherever you feel safe. If you are sitting, feel how the chair holds and supports you. If you are standing, feel the ground beneath your feet.
The road to acceptance is bumpy and non-linear. Some days are easier than others.
If you are feeling lost or overwhelmed because of a health condition, please do reach out to me. I’m happy to have a conversation to offer support and ideas for what steps you might want to take.
To each of you, I send out this wish, “May you find peace, may you find healing, may you find ease, may you find alignment.”
All my best,
In practice for over 20 years, Bonnie Diamond offers individualized, heart-centered care using a pain-free, Japanese style of acupuncture. Her work is influenced by her nine year struggle with and complete recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.