So far for sarcoidosis awareness month, I’ve written a lot about the challenges I and others face. It’s probably a no brainer to some degree, to understand that diseases are hard to live with, even ones most people know little about or have never heard of. Sarcoidosis is hard to live with and I make no bones about that. There is however, another side to life with this disease and I think it deserves to be highlighted. Some with this disease may agree with me and some may not. I can only speak from my own experience on this one.
With all the darkness that comes from life in a diseased body, there also comes equal and sometimes greater light. That light, isn’t exactly a light. It’s enlightenment. Having a chronic, life changing disease gave me a couple of options. I could either wither and drown in its presence, allowing it to define my entire world view or, I could use my struggles with it to build my inner strength and summon courage I never knew I had to change my world view. Sarcoidosis put me at a crossroad and I had a decision to make…wilt or thrive.
Over the years that I’ve had this disease, I have grieved losses. My body no longer cooperates the way I want it too. Breath does not come easily. I have lost friends who have moved on without me because I can’t keep up and I lost a career that I loved. I would be foolish to deny there hasn’t been emotional pain and real hardship from having sarcoidosis and I’m generally not known to be a fool. Yet despite these losses, or maybe because of them, I have become acutely aware of what really matters.
Sarcoidosis and gratitude are an odd coupling but I have to say that since being diagnosed with this disease and settling into all that it means to have it, I have become an extremely grateful human being. There is something about losing the ease of good health, that made me realize how much I took for granted. I didn’t see that what I thought I deserved, what I thought I earned, really never actually belonged to me.
One could argue that sarcoidosis took my life and it did. It took my life as I was knew it but, I would argue that it gave me a new one, one I did not ask for but one I find myself in a place of great comfort to have. Were it not for this disease, I would still be flitting about fusing over all the nuances in my life that aren’t just so. I would be bouncing from superficial problem to superficial problem, putting my energy and effort into frivolous endeavors. I don’t care anymore who said what to who or why. I’m no longer focused on getting my fair share. I don’t keep score and I don’t compare myself to anyone else.
I’m not saying that before this disease I was shallow and unable to appreciate my life. I’ve always had some awareness that my life is blessed but, there is something powerful in being humbled by illness and disease. It has changed me. The blessings I feel now are far greater in number and much more deeply rooted in the understanding that I don’t actually deserve the good that I have. I am, for reasons not known to me, favored. Sarcoidosis has actually taught me to think this way, to see life as an immeasurable gift, something to be cherished….even when it’s difficult.
This might sound disingenuous, but part of me is actually very grateful for my disease and that’s the truth. This peaceful reality hasn’t always been true. I was angry about being sick once. I was sad about it too. Sometimes I’m still sad about it but I don’t get angry about it anymore. I’ve come to understand that every person carries their own heavy load of something. Mine happens to be navigating a life with a chronic and potentially life threatening disease. It hasn’t been an easy experience but it has been an insightful one.
Sarcoidosis has been my greatest teacher, a mentor of sorts. It has taught me how to accept what is ultimately out of my control and in that process, it has shown me that the only thing that I’ve ever really had control over is my attitude and reaction to any given situation. Sarcoidosis has taken but it has also given and because of this I have learned the value of appreciating what I have when I have it because it might be gone tomorrow.
I don’t know what lies ahead for me in regard to my disease but I know whatever the future holds, I will face it with grace and I will deal with it from a place of thanksgiving for the life I have already had. Having sarcoidosis does not take away my ability to be joyful and to see the what is good all around me. If anything, having sarcoidosis has only magnified my desire to be at peace with the world and to accept what is as what is meant to be.