Different Diseases, But the Lessons Are the Same

Jennie Nash book (photo by Wendy Kennar)

Recently, I re-read The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming (And Other Lessons I Learned from Breast Cancer) by Jennie Nash. I know Jennie Nash because she’s an instructor through the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. And while I don’t know what it’s like to be diagnosed with breast cancer in your early thirties, I do know what it’s like to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in your early thirties.

The medical details are different but some of the lessons I think are true for many people in many different situations.

We all want to feel needed.  We all want to feel that we have something to offer.  And what I had to offer, while I was sick, was an unconditional acceptance of the help people wanted to give.”

I’m not good at that.  I find myself often declining help or not asking for help for many reasons.  I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.  I’m stubborn, and I want to be able to do things for myself the way I used to.  I don’t want to admit that I need help.  But I read those lines in Jennie’s book and I realized that me declining help, me doing without asking for help, really doesn’t benefit anyone. 

“…the body is mutable.  It can be scarred, it can change, but it can still be beautiful.” 

Those are Jennie’s words, and I admit that while I may agree with them, I don’t live my life with those words first and foremost in my mind.  Usually I look at my legs and see all that they can’t do, I look at my legs and wonder what is going on beneath the surface to cause me so much pain, but never do I look at my legs and find them beautiful.  (Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at my legs and thought them beautiful.  They were just my legs, functional and pain-free).

And as we approach this season of giving thanks, it’s important to keep in mind this paragraph Jennie wrote:

There’s nothing like a life-threatening illness to make you think about what’s important.  Even if you’re not going to die anytime soon, the thought of the possibility of death is enough to get your mind to focus.  You grab on to the things in your life that are a blessing and a privilege to be a part of, and you tend to let go of the things that aren’t.”

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