Are you an exemplary patient? Have you outgrown yourself after your diagnosis and developed unimagined skills and abilities and have gained the admiration of the people around you? Or are you an average person, who has difficulties adapting to a chronic disease?
The other day I saw a TV program in which a “courageous” cancer patient was presented that seemed serenely gliding through chemotherapy without hair. All negativity seemed to bounce off of her and the interviewing journalists were thrilled. I wondered what other cancer patients must feel watching this. It has almost become common practice in television shows to praise cheerful Parkinson’s patients, diabetic performance athletes, stroke victims with a great singing career and many others.
But what about all the others?
I can only say – now that I’m almost at the end of my chemotherapy and therefore have enough experience – that I have not carried out the therapy cheerful and at ease. No, it was the worst thing that has happened to me so far, and I had phases, where I was discouraged, powerless and helpless. No, in these moments, I was not a hero, nor would I have made a good guest in a television interview. But I know that most patients feel the same way I do.
An average diabetic is struggling with Diabetes Burnout again and again, because the daily control of blood sugar levels brings them to their personal limits. No patient with Parkinson’s disease calmly tolerates the growing physical and mental limitations and progressive weakness.
But the others do not want to hear that and my suspicion is that many patients therefore do not mention the dark side of their fate publicly. Patients are also able to learn and adapt to their circumstances.
My advice to everyone who feels like a loser when watching such programs: Do not put additional pressure on yourself by believing, that you have to present yourself strong and cheerful in public. Only patients concerned know how hard it is to live with diabetes, heart failure, asthma, COPD or cancer and how much force it takes to master the daily challenges and fears.
I find it much more courageous to publicly admit, when you are managing badly instead of pretending everything is perfect. This is not really helpful for anybody.
I recover from my personal lows much more quickly, if I can talk to someone and be honest. The others simply have to endure those times and that’s what they do.
Author: Prof. Dr. Dorothee Gaenshirt