Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Friday, 10 September 2010

A Healthy Dose of Realism

Usually I blog about writing topics (or posts loosely based on writing topics at any rate), and sometimes I descend into madness and Taff for a paragraph or ten. Other times I have taken bonkers requests, or I've  just rambled about nothing in particular. Today I'm still going to ramble (I wouldn't be me otherwise), but it's going to be a pretty serious topic. Today I'm going to talk about illnesses.

Some of my family members suffer from a number of illnesses, mental disorders and genetic and congenital diseases. so I'm pretty clued up about a lot of things. It's actually quite scary to sit down and contemplate all of the health problems that we collectively suffer from.

My older sister has a congenital heart problem. Well, describing it as a heart problem is pretty stupid to be fair, because her heart issues are not the half of it. Her heart is on the wrong side of her chest and the chambers don't work properly, her stomach is only a third of the size that it should be, other major organs are in the wrong place, and her main arteries and blood vessels are completely screwed. She'd had two heart bypasses by the time she was eleven years old, and at aged sixteen she had pioneering surgery to re-route some of her main arteries in the hope of giving her a better blood and oxygen supply. Added to this, she suffered multiple strokes before she was twenty-five years old.There is a name for her condition (it has the word 'transpostion' in there somewhere), but it's so long and convoluted that I can never remember it. The condition is rare, not hereditary, and has sufferers in the thousands - not millions - worldwide. I'm pretty sure there are only a handful of people in the UK who have the same condition actually, that's how rare it is.

Then there is my younger sister, who was diagnosed as bipolar several years ago. She struggled a hell of a lot in her youth with all aspects of life, but the eighties wasn't a decade known for its enlightenment of mental health issues, so her problems were overlooked. To this day she can't deal with the public in any shape or form, and is unable to work as she has difficulty interacting with people. She will be thirty next month, and though she is married and has a home of her home, she is still largely isolated.

My mother, who has had to deal with one seriously ill child and one child with severe behavioural problems over the years, is no stranger to illness herself. She had minor health issues in her youngers days, but the last two years has seen a surge of problems for her. What initially started as high blood pressure, which is bad enough in itself, has escalated into her starting to lose the feeling in her legs. You see, the medication for her blood pressure caused some of the nerves in her brain to enlarge, which in turn was causing her extreme headaches and numbness of the face. She had brain surgery earlier this year which has largely fixed the problem, but her recovery from the surgery was hampered by the need to have a drain fitted to remove excess fluid from her brain. The spinal drain appears to have caused nerve damage to her spine, thus leaving her with drastically weakened leg function. Last year she was an active woman who was always on the go, this year she hobbles around like a pensioner, yet she is still several years away from the big 6-0.

Then there are my children. My eldest suffers from DAMP Syndrome, which is a blanket term for A.D.H.D, autism, dyspraxia, and a number of other disorders. He has elements from half a dozen disorders, though the predominant problem is the A.D.H.D. I could type for hours about the problems we have had over the years, but I won't. Suffice to say that after the hours I have spent researching, I could probably answer most questions relating to these disorders.

Then there is my daughter, who I lost almost eleven years ago. After a routine scan in my fifth month of pregnancy, I was told that my daughter had hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The damage to her brain and spine was so severe that even in the unlikely event of her surviving pregnancy to full term, she would not have survived childbirth.

To add to this, my husband is also a carrier for the Cystic Fibrosis gene, so my step-daughter has the disease. CF is an awful disease that affects the lungs mostly, but also has impact on the digestive system. Life expectancy for CF sufferers has improved in the last decade or so, though we're still a long way away from finding the medication that can give the sufferers of this disease both a better quality of life, and a chance to see their forties.

If you're still reading this, you might be wondering why I am talking about all these health problems. I guess you could say that the recent decline in my mother's health  (as well as my own experience with episodic depression) has made me look at things a little more closely.

My elder sister doesn't have a good quality of life, yet she actively keeps involved with the family and doesn't for one minute bemoan her situation. She never complains about her significant problems, and rarely lets things get her down.

My younger sister, despite her mental health issues, has managed to move away from home and settle into married life with her husband. She is also making moves to further her education in the hopes of improving her confidence so that she might one day be able to cope with working with people on a daily basis.

My mother, in spite of her deteriorating health, still puts everyone else first and devotes all of her time to her family, despite my having told her off for it far too many times to remember.

My son has battled not only his mental disorders, but also verbal and physical abuse from his peers for most of his life, yet he is now embarking on his GCSE's and participating in a weekly mechanics course that will hopefully lead to employment when he leaves school.

My step-daughter, who is eighteen, is a typical teenager who recently passed her driving test and is enjoying life with her friends and family, not for one moment letting her illness stop her from achieving anything that she wants.

Do you see a pattern here?

All of these people, along with the millions of people worldwide who suffer from not only these illnesses, but others too, haven't given up. They've taken the crappy hand that was dealt to them and pretty much stuck their fingers up at Fate and carried on regardless.

It's kind of humbling, yes? And also a little guilt-inducing for your typical procrastinator. Life is short (I know that's a cliche, but it's true), and we get thrown huge curve balls when we least expect them. Maybe it's time to rethink my philosophy on life, because sometimes tomorrow isn't another day after all.


  1. I get it, I need to get to work now. Great post.


  2. Clarissa - Indeed! I moan about so many silly things on a daily basis, it's just stupid, it really is. There's always someone worse off, we just need to remember that. :)

  3. This is inspiring, Tara--makes those of us with far fewer problems realize the role of attitude and drive. And responsibility, actually... we all need to work hard to make the best of what we have.

    Hugs to you.

  4. What a way of putting things into perspective, Tara! You forgot to add, though, that you - while coping with all of this in your immediate family - also are a wife and mother, a crack'o'dawn-shift worker, a writer, a friend and a superb person. I don't know how you do it.

    Thanks for sharing, and thanks for reminding me - there are more important things in life than my stupid thesis!

  5. You have a wonderful way of putting things in perspective, Tara. But you know what, the life of a mother is tough too, specially when the father doesn't always do his bit- so a bit of procrastinating is allowed.

  6. Tami - When I wrote this it didn't seem 'inspiting', I just wrote what was on my mind at the time. You are absoulutely right though. When you look at what some people have to deal with on a day to day basis, it makes you want to do better with what you HAVE got, regardless of whatever problems you have.

    Mari - The thing is, your thesis ISN'T stupid. Everybody has something that is a priority to them - your thesis is important because it's a steeping stone to the future that you're working towards. Just because it isn't life threatening doesn't mean it isn't important. It's just a different kind of priority, that's all.

    Natasha - yup, motherhood is the toughest job there is. No matter how badly I want to get things done, my kids will always come first. Sometimes playing Connect 4 with Ellie (or some such thing) takes priority over editing that section I was planning to do.

    Sorry for the tardiness - meant to reply sooner but life got in the way. :)

  7. Hahaha, 'stepping stone' not 'steeping stone'. *rolls eyes at self*