7 Surprising Truths I learned From A Recent Health-Scare

Updated: Apr 23

I went through a "thing" last month. A health-scare that came out of the blue and made me look at the world through a different lens.

Those of you who read this blog regularly are aware of my propensity to over-think and my attempts to find my new "normal" in this middle-aged stage of my life. Hence, it will come as no surprise to you to hear that when my doctor called me with "bad news" a month or so ago, it ignited a new, marathon session of overthinking in relation to my life and its fuckeries.

Fortunately, on a scale of 1-10, in reality my health scare was a 1 in terms of seriousness when compared to sufferers of terminal illnesses - especially now, during these difficult COVID times, when treatment is so often compromised. And my treatment, while invasive, was marginal in terms of discomfort in comparison to the procedures some have to endure daily to stay alive. But it was scary enough to provide me with an insight into the question of how best to manage whatever time I have left.

The metamorphosis of my mindset over the three weeks was also an interesting experiment in resilience

As you would expect, my initial reaction to the news of my diagnosis was fear, anger, and self-pity, but that quickly moved to a need to be hugged, held, and sympathised with, until finally, I found some peace and a level acceptance - where I could joke about my plight and even discuss my cremation and my controversial choice of "Light My Fire" as the opening number.

My senses were heightened

But the real surprise - and I know it's a cliche - was the way my potential, early death sentence made me look at life differently. I suppose I expected to be racked by despair, for everything to suddenly feel bleak, when instead I started to view the world with rose-tinted glasses. My senses were heightened. The fear of time running out made me focus and appreciate the colour in my life, the simple pleasures, and the relationships I am often guilty of taking for granted. The news propelled me to cram in as much living as I could before the end.

There have been many times over the past few years when menopause has turned me into a cranky old bitch (my husband's words), made me irrationally angry and resentful about unimportant stuff, and my scare provided me with the perfect reminder of what I have rather than what I don't have.

My scare gave me a lesson in gratitude.

I can only describe the experience as a brief glimpse into how I would grieve for my own life as my mind wandered from a state of total numbness to self-pitying sessions that focused on my regrets and dashed hopes, an obsession with my bucket-list and greater appreciation of minimalism - a lifestyle I have been drawn to in middle age - to, finally, some level of acceptance.

It's impossible to list everything I took away from the ordeal, but below are 7 of the more surprising truths I discovered:

  1. The realisation that I don't want to die - which for someone who has experienced several depressions was an awakening - and yet ...

  2. The discovery that I'm also not afraid of dying. I came to the realisation that I am grateful for my half-century when so many others are cheated.

  3. That no one will understand the emotional battle or handle the news particularly well that you have a potentially life-threatening illness. No one wants to believe the gravity of your situation or can really identify with the whirlwind of emotions that come with the territory. That's why it is easier to limit those early days of processing the news with close family and friends.

  4. I felt ashamed. Inwardly, I felt responsible and judged for my situation, which is a horrible feeling when you are already coping with a potential fight for your life.

  5. My legacy is not what I believed. I came to the realisation that the legacy I want to leave behind is not about the paltry list of my professional achievements, it's about my acts of service. It's about the people whose lives I've touched by telling them I love them, remembering their birthday, calling them (when I hate the phone), and been there for when they needed me most; and my services to charities or the awareness I've contributed to charities through my writing.

  6. The need to change the narrative around death. I discovered the danger of the media's drive to corrupt the meaning of death by making us believe that living longer and looking younger are what really matters, when all that does is increase our fear. Our culture's fear of death is discriminatory and isolating for those who are nearing the end of their lives, when what they need is support.

  7. The importance of an equal healthcare system. True to my leftie principles, my experience cemented my belief in equal healthcare for everyone. Our system here in Australia isn't perfect, but not only was I made to feel confident in my level of care, my scare was dealt quickly, professionally, and with compassion. What more can you ask for?

Has anyone else had a health-scare serious enough to change the way you live?

72 views0 comments