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3 Ways to Handle Stress of Illness

posted 7 May 2015, 10:09 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 13 May 2015, 10:29 ]

By Josephine Bila

Sometimes having a medical condition can be extremely overwhelming.  This week alone has presented me with a unique challenge to my health, family, and work life. My heart feels heavy as I write this. In fact, I would be lying if didn't say I wanted to give up .

The final straw came on Thursday. I felt overwhelmed at work, then went to the hospital for my monthly transfusion. There, I was told by my nurse that the blood set aside for me by the blood bank was incompatible with my blood type.

This has happened before, so I wasn’t devastated by the news. What made me feel hopeless was what the nurse said after calling the blood bank again to make sure she wasn’t mistaken. The nurse said, “They think you have a new antibody.”

Anyone who is chronically transfused the way that I am has to deal with their own immune system’s reaction to the foreign blood they’re receiving. My immune system is “very active,” according to my doctor. What this means is, my body creates antibodies in an attempt to destroy the donated blood that is saving my life. Ironic, isn’t it?

Needless to say, I became extremely afraid for my well-being. In that moment, my future and all of the things I hoped to one day accomplish seemed absolutely impossible to achieve. I wondered how much time I had left to live. I then wondered who I would spend that time with. In other words, I started to plan out the end of my existence.

My knee-jerk reaction to my thoughts was to sob like a child lost in a crowd. There I was, alone, sitting on a brown recliner in the corner of a small rectangular room with elderly cancer patients staring at me. I sensed that they understood the heaviness in my tears.

After being left unconsoled by the hospital’s staff members, I took a deep breath in and composed myself. I then called the two most reliable people I know. My mom and best friend, Mike. Each of them told me not to worry and that I would get through it. What else could they say?

Several minutes after hanging up with Mike, the nurse called the blood bank again and said to me, “False alarm. They must have been confused. Your blood is on its way.”

Those words traveled to my eardrums like a rainbow streaking across the sky. I felt a flood of hope and potential fill my heart. Then I thought to myself, “BLEEP… BLEEP, why can’t they get these things BLEEPing things right?”

My doctor came in shortly after to talk to me about some other things, so I mentioned what had happened and he got upset. He said, “99 out of 100 times, that type of problem will not be the case and if it does happen, we will deal with it.” His words were somewhat comforting. Of course, I wished that I didn’t have to deal with any of it and wondered how wonderful it would be to have the simple worries of a healthy person.

After the whole ordeal was over, I realized that there were three takeaways I could share from the experience. This is what I learned:

*Future Thinking Can Lead You Astray. What I mean to say is, if I had kept my thoughts in the present moment and surrendered fully to what was happening, I wouldn’t have suffered as much as I did. Since my thoughts took me out of the hospital room and into the mind-made fantasy of my future self, a conflict occurred. That conflict created pain that could have been avoided if I wasn’t so heavily guided by my ego.

*Have a Network of People Who Care About You and Are Available. I’m very fortunate to say that I have a number of amazing people who love and support me. Unfortunately, people have busy lives and few are truly available to pick up the phone at a moment’s notice. Even less are available to physically be there for you. That’s why it pays to be grounded in yourself. Though, you will benefit greatly by having people in your life who will love you unconditionally and be there for you whenever you need them.

*Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Doctor Involved. I could have avoided a lot of heartache if I had asked the nurse to get my doctor involved with the blood bank. Doctors can be great mediators and they’re almost always looking out for your best interest.

If you know someone who is dealing with an overwhelming health condition, please share this with him or her. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone in the struggle makes all the difference.