If there is one thing I’ve come to appreciate through nursing, it’s the complexity a single human being is made up of. The brain is one of the most complex things in the universe and it’s right behind the nose! Anatomy aside, the human spirit is quite a captivating thing. The one thing I’ve noticed repeatedly is that a person’s attitude and outlook toward life matters hugely and can effect the progression or regression of illness.
When I was still a pupil nurse, it was new to me to see so many ill people so when I saw a 36 year old female patient wheeling herself into the surgical ward, I was stunned silent for a minute before I could ask what she had come in for. She was battling cancer, had a gangrenous right leg, and was booked to have her leg amputated that morning. While I struggled to come to terms with the state of her body, she kept a smile on her face and said “Don’t worry dear, it’s just a body. I’m made up of much more than this flimsy thing.” I felt embarrassed that she caught me staring but amazed at how bright and happy she looked despite the painful ordeal she was going through. The operation a success, her smile never faded. She kept a great sense of humour, helped herself as much as humanly possible, rarely rang the bell and never spent a single moment in self-pity. If she caught me pitying her, she’d stop me in my tracks. She believed there was still much to be grateful for. I know that there must have been hard times during the diagnosing and treatment process and that she wasn’t overjoyed having to deal with cancer but even though the cancer was destroying her body, she laughed a pure laugh and she strengthened people around her with her spirit and you couldn’t see a sign of sadness in her eyes. What matters is that she could still feel happiness and kept doing whatever she needed to do to live life the best she could, given the cards she was dealt.
On the other hand in another ward, I had a diabetic patient who had gone blind. She couldn’t walk very far because her legs would ache under her weight. She’d cry all day and night, and she’d ask over and over again why God had punished her like this. Her body was full of aches and pains and while we’d do as much as we could to help her with pain relief, she would never be even mildly content. I’d try to comfort her and sympathized with her but she left me feeling a sense of hopelessness around her because she would remain unresponsive to any positive encouragement. Naturally her misery repelled people. Her family would rarely visit her which added to her misery. She wouldn’t smile for a single moment and she would not attempt to help herself or regain some independence. She looked terrible and she was miserable every day. Her ailments were far from a death sentence. With a diet change and a closely observed treatment plan, she could have returned to a relatively normal life but she saw the disease as punishment and so it became punishment and her blood sugar wouldn’t settle. She’d be continuously in and out of hospital, her family abandoned her and we had to hand over her case to social services. She no doubt, will continue to suffer and her condition will get worse if she keeps up that attitude.
Whatever you’re going through, don’t let it consume you. There is something inside of you that’s indestructible and if you keep in touch with it, you will make it through any battle just fine.
Edit: Coincidentally just as I finished writing this post, the song “Inside Us All” by rock band “Creed” came through my headphones! There really is a peace inside us all.