It’s scary, I know. And it hurts too.
Illness, chronic pain, disease, struggle, sickness; it often makes for bad days.
If we actually think about the statistics and that one in three people in the UK may be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and that’s just cancer, it’s terrifying.
But here’s the thing. We can do something about it.
I’m not talking about drinking your body weight in green juice or hoping really, really hard that the issue somehow passes you by.
I believe we can all choose to shift the way we view the problem and take action.
Let me give you an example, I got a message on Facebook last week asking me to add a pink heart to my Facebook Wall. This was to raise awareness of breast cancer and to empower women. We weren’t to tell anyone what the pink hearts were for, and to let them wonder and guess.
There were 50 women on this group message.
I said, “I’m not entirely sure how the hearts help breast cancer, but here is a link to self breast exams here which I hope help some people. If everyone who posts a heart also takes time to get to know their body, do the checks and perhaps donates some time or money to a breast cancer research charity that could help too”.
Yes, people left the conversation after that. I know, I am that girl.
But there are 50 women there, and that is a lot of attitude and action.
If we shift our attitude the illnesses we are living with become less of an inevitable threat and more something we have power in. [Click to Tweet]
I can feel scared of new diagnoses, I do. But if I decide to take appropriate action, immediately I’ve shifted from fear to action, from stuck-ness to power. I can still be scared, but I’m no longer rendered incapacitated by fear. And I say this having been incapacitated by illness.
I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t speak, could barely breath through the pain but I was still me.
If we publicise the problem without taking action then we are handing over the power. And the responsibility.
“There is a commonly held belief that if enough people know about an injustice, it will stop.” – Rod Coronado
The idea that if enough people know about an injustice or a problem, it will somehow stop is a myth.
You know about it, you do something about it.
I know, you can’t you’re busy, you don’t know how, me too. How about we try together?
“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable”. – Arundhati Roy
Enough rhetoric, what can we actually, physically do right now?
1. What illnesses do you wish there was more ‘awareness’ or understanding about? Can you increase your understanding of the illness and how it occurs in the human body? If it affects your kidneys, hypothalamus or adrenals, where are these things? What do they look like and what do they do? I recommend asking questions and the Anatomy Colouring Book.
2. How is your body? How are you now? Check in, do you need to stretch, or have some water? Try closing the computer and taking some deep breaths. Familiarity with your body and what is right and usual for you is a great way to embrace wellness and to notice any changes which would lead to an early diagnosis.
3. How do you see illness? When you think of someone ill, what image comes to mind? Someone in bed? In hospital? What about someone disabled or chronically ill… do you see a wheelchair? An amputation? What are your underlying attitudes around health, bodies, and illness? Take some time to consider and if you find your images don’t match the attitudes you want to have, it’s an opportunity to find some new role models.
4. Communicate what you need. If you are living with a chronic illness and notice that people always express pity to you and you know you don’t need to be pitied let them know this. Illness doesn’t have to mean powerlessness. [Click to tweet] I always say “We don’t talk about this in terms of sorry and pity and prefer to focus on what I can do and how things are right now, it’s not tragic for me, it’s my life and what I’m used to. And I’m very happy, thank you for your compassion though. So, can I ask you….” and change the subject. You can be the role model, if you want to.
5. Make a list of the issues you are scared of and plan ways to take action for them. If you are nervous of your MS relapsing, maybe you can find an activity you find calming and in which you lose track of time. When you are enjoying it, you are in the moment and the worry is receding. If you are worried about lung cancer then perhaps you could volunteer time or money for a local cancer charity or offer some time to a hospice or support group.
6. Health anxiety can be very difficult. And let’s face it, worrying doesn’t help our health but knowing that doesn’t stop us doing it. How can you manage anxiety? I recommend Breathworks.
7. When offering help to someone who is ill, consider making suggestions. When we are ill, we often hear people saying, “let me know if I can do anything”, and we have to consider whether or not they mean it and if they do, whether they mean, “I’ll pick you up some food from the super market when I go” type of help or “I’ll drive you through rush hour to your hospital appointment, read to you and advocate on your behalf with the benefits agency” type of help. Both are brilliant, but it’s hard to know. The thing is, it’s hard to know for you too, you may not know what to offer. When we extend compassion, initiate conversation and get specific, we knock down the walls of fear and difference between the ‘healthy’ and the ‘ill’. Imagine what might be difficult for them, e.g. broken leg could mean standing by the stove, driving/collecting food or prescriptions, and boredom might be problems. Make some suggestions and people can say yes, or ask for what they need.
8. Consider the effect not the action. You, and your time and energy are very precious. Where can you have the biggest impact? If you want to make a difference, let’s plan actions that are effective and scalable. Personally, more people knowing about the multiple illnesses I live with doesn’t help me a large amount (that I can see) and doesn’t help them. People knowing disability doesn’t equal inability and that being familiar with their bodies and learning basic wellness helps them and me!
Come over and join the Sick Chick to Trail Blazer Facebook page and let us know what action you are taking today.
This post is dedicated to all the amazing cancer survivors and healing ladies of Too Hot To Stop, Basic Missions and Crazy Sexy Life, that I am so blessed to call friends.
Disclaimer: I know lots of people dedicate time, energy and lives to awareness raising, I am not writing to denigrate their work. This is just my opinion, I could well be wrong and I respect your efforts and value you as an integral part of the world I love.