I’m in this weird place where I feel like the “Coping with a Diagnosis” portion of my blog is coming to a close, but I don’t fully know what to say just yet.
I’ve been grappling with it for several weeks now, and yet the words have been so elusive to me.
I know why they are elusive – there are several reasons:
One is that this blog has been an outlet for me through the literal toughest moments of my life so far. From the month I was diagnosed (creeping up on two years ago now…what?!) until this very moment, you’ve watched me grapple with all the things. The grief. The pain. The anger. The frustration. The hope. The loss. The fear. Then the cancer scare. The PTSD. The coping. The learning. The growth. The mental and emotional healing.
All of it.
I’ve shown you some deep portions of my soul, readers and friends, with the hope that my words would somehow help someone somewhere in some way…whether that someone is dealing with the exact same diagnosis or something entirely different yet still relatable to the struggles of dealing with a chronic, long-term, or lifelong illness.
Another reason is that posting this somehow signals, for me, the finality of my diagnosis. The harsh reality is that there has been no natural, physical healing, friends, and that prognosis doesn’t look good when you’re two years out with PI-IBS. As positive as I try to be, always, let’s be honest for this one moment: that sucks. It just deep-down, to-the-core sucks for so many reasons. But…there isn’t a thing in the world anyone can do about it at this point in medical history, so there is nothing to be done on my end except suck it up and accept that it is what it is. Still doesn’t make it any easier to write these words, though. So…that’s a tough point.
A third reason why I’ve been unsure of what to say is because, at some point, I may want to continue writing about coping with my diagnosis if something does change, so I don’t want to completely shut off my avenue of thought. I understand that it’s my blog and I can always do what I want, but as an English major and former English teacher, I do love a good closing statement.
Basically, all of that put together is why this post is equal parts hard, sad, scary, and uplifting for me – all at once.
As a side note, I still plan to post recipes and share good things with you as much as I can. As always, my love for good food despite my diagnosis will still head your way via yummy meals and treats. I’m definitely not done with the blog – I just feel like I’ve walked through all the stages of getting to acceptance of a diagnosis, as you can see if you go back through all my posts in the “Coping with a Diagnosis” section.
For me, this journey isn’t over. It’s looking more like a lifetime every day. And that’s ok, because each day I wake up is another day of proof that God still has a purpose for this wild, weird ride of mine.
It’s just that my journey is transitioning from the coping aspect into a new phase. So, as I take this final step toward transition, there are just a few more thoughts I want to share with you about living this life:
Dealing with chronic illness is hard. Even when you are two years out. Even when you are fifty years out. Even when everyone has kind of forgotten what you went through in those first weeks/months and what you’re still dealing with each day. Some days, your illness will beat you down and make you cry. Occasionally, you’ll still want to punch a wall out of frustration. Every once in awhile, you’ll just have a bad day and wish it would stop. But, as you learn your new ways and new habits, you’ll begin to see that…
Dealing with chronic illness gets easier. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take effort. It’s going to use more energy than you imagine. It’s going to be one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do. It’s going to require bravery like you’ve never before mustered and enormous amounts of patience, kindness, and love. But one day, you’ll suddenly realize that life is easier than it was when you were first diagnosed. And you’ll realize that…
Dealing with chronic illness opens your eyes to more life than you can ever imagine. When you honestly think you’re about to die, your worldview (hopefully) changes. You learn what’s important and what’s not. You have to make the conscious decision to live every moment like it’s worth it if it’s your last. And then hopefully you do. You’ll develop a sense of compassion and empathy like you never knew you were missing, and after you work your way through your own stages of grief (and side note – this may take awhile, so be patient with yourself), you learn to help others along their way. For me – that means taking giant, goofy balloons to people in the hospital because they bring a smile and a moment of joy in a time of fear and despair, just like the one my husband brought me on what I thought might’ve been my last birthday ever in 2018. That also means putting my heart and soul into a ministry where the children at our local church make Sunshine boxes filled with cards and pick-me-ups to deliver to people dealing with long-term illness and difficult situations. And it means personally mailing at least two cards each week, one to someone I know who needs it and one to someone just to make his/her day…because you never know when someone is dealing with something privately. You learn to show more grace and compassion to all humanity – because who’s to say that person driving like a maniac isn’t headed to the hospital like I was on numerous occasions? What’s actually causing that grumpy attitude from the person you see at the grocery store, just like I probably was as I barely shuffled through the grocery store without knowing what to buy and when I felt like death itself? Chronic illness teaches you so many things. One of the best things is…
Even when you have a chronic illness, you can still have a wonderful life. I’m not ever going to tell you that I’m happy about what happened to me. You just won’t hear it. But there are a lot of good things that have come out of my experiences – like a stronger and altered faith in God, this blog as a ministry tool, even better relationships with all the wonderful people around me, and a new appreciation for life – and I’ve learned that life can still be good and enjoyable and fun, even when it’s also hard.
Basically…what I want to say to you is that you’re never going to live the perfect life, my friends. Don’t expect it. I’ll even say don’t reach for it (at least to the point of missing the great life you already have). Instead, enjoy the moments you are given – yes, even the worst ones – and use them to bring glory and honor to God, in whatever way that is. Know that you are always in charge of your choice to be happy – no matter your circumstances or the people around you or the diagnosis, no matter if everything is going exactly as planned or completely off the rails. And always remember that a moment spent in bitterness is a moment of your life you will never get back.
Sometimes, when life hands you something hard, the most courageous thing you can do is put one foot in front of the other and say, “How am I going to make this work anyway?” And then you just do it, easy or not.
That’s it, y’all. The best of what I’ve got. It’s time to move on to the next phase, whatever that means. Unless something changes…my “Coping” has come full circle. I hope to see you here someday, no matter where you are in your PI-IBS or chronic illness journey.
Thank you (so very much!) for your continued love and support throughout my journey. Please continue to visit for regular (fabulous!) low-FODMAP recipes. And know that if you ever, ever, EVER need a friend or an ear to bend, you can reach me through the Contact page. I’m happy to listen and help if I can.