Status Malus

I recently learned a friend has something called sarcoidosis – a horrible disease that can strike any organ in the body, has an unknown cause, and can come and go at will.  It can cause a cough, or a rash, or shortness of breath, or fatigue, or fever, or any combination of these symptoms and others.  People afflicted with sarcoidosis often go without a proper diagnosis, suffering over and over, wondering if they’re going crazy.  Just as quickly as these mystery symptoms appear, they may disappear – if  you’re one of the lucky ones.  Or they may damage your lungs, eyes, heart, or kidneys permanently.  And, did I mention there is no known cure?

So, what must it be like to live with a disease that could change every day?  It can be painful, or annoying, or lying dormant waiting to strike another day.  It can last 2 years, or a lifetime.  Doctor’s might know the best way to treat it, or they might just take a guess and try something. 

We all live shrouded in mystery.  We don’t know what each day will bring our way.  But, for many of us, at least there is a fair assumption of limitations on the possibilities.  I don’t worry each night when I close my eyes if I will be able to see as well in the morning.  I don’t wake to another day of more pain and less energy.  I don’t wonder if it will be my illness or me to win the battle each day.

There are so many people suffering, everyday.  Sometimes we know a little of what they are going through.  Friends request prayers for someone.  We read a post on social networking sites.  I often think “how awful” or “that’s sad” or think about their children or spouse or parents or dog.  But, until recently, I didn’t truly imagine what day-to-day life must really be like for someone who suffers every day.  Between this friend, and another acquaintance (my own age) diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (stage 4, metastasized to the liver), I have been consumed with thoughts of life with a chronic disease.  I do everyday things, like washing dishes or getting my mail or driving to the grocery store for a junk-food fix, and think “I’m lucky to be able to do this.”  That’s a switch for me – thinking I’m lucky to do laundry!

But how many people who you see each day are suffering silently?  Whether it is physical, mental, or emotional pain – many people keep their pain private.  So, what can we do for them?  If they don’t reach out for help from us, then we’re off the hook, right?  Here’s what I say:

  • Remember that every person you encounter each day is suffering in some way.  Their rudeness or insensitivity may be the result of lack of sleep, excruciating pain, medications, or just trying to get by each day.  Take a breath and don’t add to their suffering.
  • Say a prayer for everyone who is in pain.  It’s okay if you can’t name names – God knows who they are.
  • Ask a friend, family member or co-worker how they are doing….how they are really doing.  Every once in a while, don’t take “fine” for an answer. 
  • When you are suffering, don’t keep silent.  Find someone to talk to or lean on.  You can look to friends, family  and co-workers.  Or find a support group, even online, to gain strength.
  • Remember that you are loved and you have the capacity to love others.
  • Believe in Grace

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