Dianne's battle royale: Rich life, imperfect past!

Dianne's battle royale: Rich life, imperfect past!

A very close friend of mine died recently. She was like a sister to me, not by blood but by choice and I feel her loss every single day. Her illness came on very suddenly and her death unexpected. From diagnoses to her passing was only three short weeks. She was fifty-seven years old. In her last days she asked me was she to blame for her illness? Was it because she smoked? Was it because she had taken fertility drugs when she was younger? Was it because she did not exercise? She was asking if choices she had made in her past had contributed to early demise. She was asking me if she was to blame?

Why I mention this is because I too ask myself am I to blame for being in the position I am today with my illness. Could I have prevented it? Did I work too hard or too long hours? Did I travel too much? Could I have eaten healthier, could I have exercised more? Could I have gone to the doctor sooner?

When I asked my astute and wonderful partner those questions he answered. “Most of us that have lived full lives, have made choices that have benefited ourselves and have benefited others. However, with hindsight some of our actions and decisions have turned out to be less wise but it is a combination of wise and the unwise action that's makes life so wonderful and colourful. And, when something negative happens to us or when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we should not paralyze ourselves by presuming our past should be perfect".

His answer reminded me of a class I audited where the professor was discussing HIV Aids. I recall a number of the students saying that it was the person’s own fault if they were HIV positive, as they should not have had unprotected sex. Actually, what these students were suggesting is that those who are HIV positive had brought it upon themselves. Ouch, and Ouch again!

It got me thinking…. how often do we try to attribute blame to the one affected? Someone has a heart attack and our thoughts turn to “Did they eat too much?” “Did they smoke” “They really should have done more exercise!”

Maybe, just maybe, someone else’s misfortune triggers fear in us. And we try to protect ourselves by thinking this will not happen to me because I do not drink or smoke or have unprotected sex, or drive too fast …or… or….

However, blaming people for the situation they are in is neither helpful nor productive. It gets in the way of seeing the other choices that these people have made that were wonderful and supportive of a rich life. It blinds us to the fact that we might find ourselves in the circumstance where others look at our history and behaviour and find choices of our past to “blame” for our current unpleasant circumstances.

To refer back to the lecture I audited. Unfazed by the students’ responses, the professor asked: “How many of you smoke?” Quite a few hands were raised and amongst them were a several of the same students who had earlier responded “they shouldn’t have had unprotected sex”. Need I say more?

So I have given up pondering about blame and am committing myself to the art of being thankful.

•Thankful—for a continuing wonderful and colourful life!

• Thankful for the friends, family, and colleagues - who surround me and who are supporting me through this, at times, somewhat lonely and frightening journey.

• Thankful to the doctors, nurses, and all medical staff—for their kindness and generosity, in words and deeds.

• Thankful for my lovely apartment—with a view that brings peace and comfort.

• Thankful for a career—doing things that make it feel more like a passion than work.

• Thankful that I can still add value—by teaching, researching, and encouraging women to be whatever they choose to be.

• Thankful—that I am able to write this blog and share my experiences and thoughts with all of you.

• Thankful – for each and every day that I walk this beautiful earth.

With love to you all,

Dianne