Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Soft, but Strong

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicIt was a day like any other – except I was having a terrible flare and could barely move. I had all of my meds, food, water, a book I could barely read because holding it hurt. But, what I didn’t have was enough toilet paper and, with this particular flare, this was a really terrible problem.

Ordinarily, this would not be such a crisis. I’d drag myself out and get enough for the duration of the flare. Yes, I’m usually the last person who, when she needs help, doesn’t ask for it. But with this flare, well, going out was just not going to happen.

I could have called a local delivery service. But somehow, paying a delivery charge of, oh, probably more than three times the cost of the precious tissue seemed ludicrous, especially with all of the other medically necessary expenses the flare had ungraciously brought.

So it was that I called a friend.

If you’re healthy, you might at this poing think, “Duh. Why didn’t she do this in the first place?” But many of my fellow chronic illness sufferers will understand – Some of us doggedly, stubbornly cling to independence unless we’re nearly unconscious. And even then, we like to direct traffic!

I felt completely weak and silly asking a friend to buy and deliver a pack of toilet tissue. I mean, couldn’t I at least have needed something dire?  (Although, believe me, the situation was just about as dire as it could be.)  But the immediate, unconditional response of my friend (“Of course. Anything else you need?”) made me realize that asking for help when we really need it is not soft or weak, but rather a strong testament to God putting resources in our lives, relationships that work, and good people who want to do good things.

So, I had a “soft but strong” day in more ways than one.

And, of course, I always tell people I’ll do the same for them. They have only to ask!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

After Cancer, Then What?

posted by mpratt
Image courtesy of graur codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of graur codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, there is great hope for many people diagnosed with cancer. There are more survivors than ever before, thanks to early diagnostics and better and more effective treatments. We still have a long way to go, but ongoing commitments of care and research are encouraging. Yet, for all the support around bringing people successfully through diagnosis and treatment, there’s another aspect of cancer that I don’t think is talked about nearly enough. That is, how a person puts his or her life together again after.

Of course, we see the news stories and pictures of people who participate in walks and other awareness and fund-raising efforts after they’ve waged and won their personal battle. But participating in these kinds of causes might not be for everyone, and it doesn’t address the whole picture of what it means to have survived.

For example, treatments might have lingering side effects. The spirit might be profoundly shaken and vulnerable to stress. Work, home, and other relationships might have suffered greatly during the crisis and need significant mending. Emotions of elation and joy might give way to a hard let-down when life is supposed to return to “normal,” but the survivor isn’t sure just what that means.

Doctors, spiritual caregivers, trusted friends and family – these all can play a huge role in helping a survivor put their life back together. But, of course, he or she must first ask for the help.

It can be difficult to think that you have more to do after you’ve just climbed the Himalayan-equivalent of living through cancer. But as you take positive steps to heal all the other things that might have been damaged, you’ll soon see a stronger, more courageous “you” emerge. And those hopes that you put on hold, and the dreams you thought were dead, will, once again, splendidly soar!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Brain fog and list-less?

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicBrain fog is one of the key maladies that can really frustrate, confound, and seriously crimp a day’s activities – it truly can feel as if the whole world around is shrouded in thick fog, making it hard to figure out how, what, or where you’re supposed to be headed. Unfortunately, many of us experience it, whether because of chronic illness (such as lupus or MS) or as the result of certain medications or treatments (even after chemotherapy, for example, cancer survivors might still have significant brain fog). I’ve written a piece for Beliefnet about spiritual tools to help with coping with brain fog (here’s the link: http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/5-Spiritual-Tools-for-Coping-with-Brain-Fog.aspx?b=1 ) , but here, I thought I’d talk about the importance of lists – and ways to make them more than just a vehicle for practical activities (such as grocery shopping).

Especially when brain fog is bad, I rely on some lists as ways to navigate through the day. What do I absolutely have to accomplish? What do I need to get from the store? Which prescriptions do I need to refill?  Some lists include timelines. How many days until I need to finish my next article? How many days until a friend’s birthday (so I know when to buy the card and have it arrive in time)?

But, I also have lists that serve other, often more important, purposes. A prayer list that helps me remember for whom I said I’d pray and for what. A praise list, which reminds me of all the wonderful gifts, large and small, that God brings into my life. A list of goals, which reminds me that, yes, it is possible to have goals when you live with chronic illness (moreover, it’s very important) – and this particular list includes the small steps to take when i can to making those goals achieveable.

Other possible lists include one of favorite moments, to call upon when times are particularly tough. Favorite music, to help recall the healing and uplifting essense of song. Favorite Scripture verses, to serve as food for a sagging spirit.

Brain fog might settle in for awhile, or lift and fall unexpectedly. Sometimes, a list kept that chronicles when it happens in relation to certain activities, foods, or other disease symptoms can help you and your doctor figure out ways to curtail it.

Each list is not only a useful tool, it also is a statement that, when that ol’ nasty brain fog does come, you’re prepared. You’ve taken charge of the situation. You might have brain fog, but it doesn’t have you.

If you have brain fog, and you’re list-less, picking up pen and paper and setting down some lists might be the first step in a whole, new, beautifully clear direction!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Your Journey, Your Gift

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicOften, I hear people with serious chronic illness tell me that they feel so alone, so lost, and they don’t feel as if they have anything to give others. Illness has stripped them of their past careers, relationships, and even their dreams. And the life ahead, filled with pain an health challenges, does not seem desirable.

Yes, it’s easy to fall into deep despair when you consider all that illness has taken away. But there’s another way to look at life with illness, a way to make the days ahead more uplifting. And, it doesn’t require extra education, training, or sacrifice.

It’s your journey that is a great gift – to you and to others.

If you’ve ever been in a patient support group, you have probably experienced what a gift it is to impart your experience and what you’ve learned through it – ups and downs included – to others who might not be as far along. You’ve also, perhaps, benefited from the wisdom of others that has come from actually living with the same condition (or, at least, a similar condition with similar symptoms).

The gift of your journey doesn’t have to be limited to support groups or other formal settings. It can also be given to neighbors, family members, and even strangers who are struggling. The example of your life, lived as fully as you can with the challenges you face, is a powerful witness and an inspiration to others, too. By greeting the day and setting forth, you are showing others that illness might change your life in radical ways, but you are not going to stop being and doing to the fullest extent possible.

You probably don’t realize how profound your journey and your example influences others. On the days when you’re most frustrated, when you think that you’re not able to do anything, consider this precious life you hold and how it speaks volumes, even if you don’t utter a word. Give the gift of your journey, the way that you navigate rough waters and continue on, to others – and see how much brighter your days become as you reap the benefits of your wonderful witness.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

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