Finding Hope Amidst Medical Challenges
I just returned from Banfield, where our precious pup Lucy got a clean bill of health. She is now 7 years old, so that makes her supposedly 49 years in people years. She fits that age paradigm for sure. She has lost a step since her early days of age 2 and 3. She runs less and sleeps a little more. Her veterinarian, Dr Smart (that’s really her name) has been seeing her for years now. She gave Lucy her rabies and other yearly required vaccines. Overall, she is in very good health. Maybe somewhere between good and very good would be more accurate.
Last week, I missed work for 3 days due to sickness. I have been fortunate not to miss much work due to illness. Yet last week gave me a “window” into the world of illness and how it affects our lives. Surely my stuff last week is not as serious, nor even comparable to, some of the life threatening cancers, heart problems, congenital issues that many people face. But my 3 day sinus troubles and sore throat did slow me down and it made me realize, once again, how illness really does adversely affect one’s ability to live life at his highest ideals and enjoyment. I was far from happy as I tried Vicks, Advil, chicken soup and even reduced amount of talking (some would say that’s not possible for me!). I even ended up on an antibiotic after going to my family physician. I just wanted to hear him tell me what was wrong and then reassure me that I would feel better soon. It is now Tuesday, and it has been almost 5 days since I saw my doctor and I feel like a brand new person, again! I am thankful to feel better, and I am thankful for medicines, my doctor, and some common sense remedies that helped me to heal. Truly one’s wellness and health are priceless, and I know that.
Sickness really had an effect on the way I lived my life last week. It seemed to take all of my energy and focus away from my work, family, and even college football. Surely that is hard to believe, but it is the truth. I cannot imagine what I would be like if I had something go seriously wrong. Yet, at age 50, I have accepted that my quality of health will not be what my 19-year-old son has now. He is the picture of health. He is strong, fit, and full of life. He can probably walk faster than I can run. Age has a way of being a good teacher. Illness is a teacher, too. Last week, I had the chance to focus on “healing myself” and allowing others to help me. The help came from my doctor, my family, and from my co-workers who worked some of my shifts so I could take paid time off. It all worked together, and I am thankful for the good gifts of friends, family, and especially God’s covenant love.
Why do we get sick? Why do some people get cancer at 22 years old, and why do some people live to be 93, like my maternal grandmother, Nan, who is in heaven? That’s a good question. Some is due to genetics and some due to lifestyle. Then there is the mystery factor. We just don’t know why some people are born with more propensity for illness than others. Surely God is not the author of cancer or illness. In fact, I would say somewhere and somehow that God is part of illness, but on the side of wellness and help. The psalmist (46:1) said that God is a great help in times of trouble. Surely illness is one of the biggest troubles facing humanity. Yet, we have the assurance from God that God is for us and not against us. Even as we struggle with illness, we are confronted with our limitations and our vulnerability to an eventual death. But until that day, I am all the more eager to regain my health and wellness, and to live life to its fullest. That’s the work of a healthcare chaplain and spiritual caregiver. We may not have all of the answers to our theological questions, but we do have hope, good medicine, and good pastoral care available. May all three of these, Hope/Good Medicine/Good Pastoral Care, be with you, too, as you face illness or help those who are struggling with illness. Together, we can help ourselves and others battle and win the struggle of healthcare challenges.
Lord, I know you are Good. Thank you for the Hope, Good Medicine, and Good Chaplains that we have at MUSC. Bless us all as we help people to live life to the fullest even amidst the challenges of illness. Amen.
-- Chaplain George M. Rossi