I am sick, but I am feeling beautiful

By Danna Elmalah, Student Nurse, The Netherlands.

Today I woke up feeling absolutely sick. In the past I would have felt miserable and inefficient, because I could not ‘do’ anything. I used to only feel like I was ‘worth something’ if I was doing things. The more things I was able to do, the better I felt about myself, but once I was not doing anything I felt worthless and unhappy. But this time around I do not feel that any more; I have noticed that when my body is sick it is actually telling me something… and that when my body speaks to me and I am listening, all that ‘I can do’ seems to matter less and ‘who I am’ starts to mean more. Now, being myself is way more important than what I can do.

I will tell you how it all began…

Continue reading “I am sick, but I am feeling beautiful”

The Big C – why me?

By Eunice J Minford MA FRCS Ed, Consultant Surgeon, N.Ireland 

We all know what the phrase ‘the Big C’ means – it is a way of saying cancer without using the word cancer. I recall hearing it when I was growing up, people whispering it to one another that, “so and so has the Big C” – the feelings of fear, trepidation and worry were palpable. Even though as a young child I initially didn’t know what the Big C was – I knew it was something bad, terrible, to be avoided at all cost if possible, there was a sense of finality to it and the smell of death hung in the air. It didn’t seem to matter which particular big C you had – they were all cloaked with the stench of illness, disease, decay, sickness, bodily destruction and death. Even in the medical world, the word cancer was often avoided in the past so as not to induce such fears in the patient and euphemisms were used like ‘growth’ or ‘ulcer’ without revealing the true diagnosis.

The depth of fear around the Big C was and is huge – people instantly equate the C word with death, but not just death, it is a death that is considered to be slow, painful, miserable, full of sickness, sadness, a failing body, losing weight, having chemotherapy and its side effects like losing hair – of losing one’s bodily functions perhaps and being dependent on others for help and support in a way that we never think we will need to be. And the reality is that cancer can wreak havoc on the body and all of the above can be part and parcel of the journey with cancer – and suffering of one kind or another, be it physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual is a common experience for the cancer patient even with all the advances in palliative care, medicine and surgery. Yet all these medical advances focus more on the physical aspects of the disease and to some degree, but usually less so, the psychological and emotional components, with very little, if any, addressing of the spiritual dimension.

Yet many people with cancer struggle with the ‘why me’ questions: what is the meaning of this cancer, this life even? Why do I have cancer now, at this stage of my life? Is there a reason? Is there a purpose to it? Is it a punishment? Is it God’s will? The existential angst that arises through a cancer diagnosis is huge but often goes unaddressed and unanswered, especially in a way that is truly healing.

Continue reading “The Big C – why me?”

Dementia – what is really going on?

By Samantha England, Health and Social Care Assessor, Norfolk, UK 

Having worked with many dementia patients in the past, and especially whilst working in a secure unit specializing with aggressive and violent dementia patients, I naturally began to look deeper into the causes of this distressing illness.

Often at the hospital where I worked we saw the same scenarios – a person who once had a respectable work and family life ending up living many of their days in a padded cell, because of the danger they presented to themselves and others.

On many occasions I was shocked to see both elderly men and ladies possess a strength that required at least four adults to restrain them, in order to keep themselves and others safe. The behaviour I have witnessed over the years has at times been shockingly aggressive and I have asked myself:

What on earth takes over these once fully functioning, aware human beings?

What possesses these people to act in such ways?

I have wondered if there is more at play here than we currently acknowledge.

Continue reading “Dementia – what is really going on?”

Slow suicide is still suicide

by Joel Levin 

To lose a friend or loved one through suicide is traumatic for all who are involved. A few years ago a close friend of mine committed suicide and the ripples are still felt today. From time to time you review past conversations with the person, wondering what signs might have been missed and if more could have been done.

There is rightly much effort placed on understanding and preventing suicide, but what is unclear to me is why these efforts focus on only one form of suicide.

It would seem that most of suicide prevention focusses on the ‘acute’ cases; the cases where someone makes a choice, on some level, to end their life in an abrupt way.

Calling it a choice is not intending to minimise the anguish some people feel in the lead-up to that choice; in fact, contemplating the level of anguish one must be feeling to reach that point, helps me understand the choice all the more.

But there is still another form of suicide that goes under the radar. What is this other form? Continue reading “Slow suicide is still suicide”