Finding Blessings In Disease and Illness

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Written by our fave former intern Sondi Bruner, reporting from her Vancouver kitchen.

You probably think I’m nuts.

Sickness can be painful, ugly, stressful, agonizing, tragic, wretched, humiliating, sad.

So what’s to be grateful for?

I used to whine a lot about having Crohn’s disease. I felt sorry for myself. I adopted a ‘Why me, why does my body hate me so much?’ kinda attitude. It was me against my intestines – and it seemed as if my intestines were always winning.

Sure, Crohn’s disease sucks. I’ve been on loads of medications, I’ve spent countless hours doubled over in hospital ERs, I’ve had a foot of bowel removed. It took me a long time to recognize all of the amazing gifts having this disease has brought me, but here I am, talking about illness like it’s a blessing and totally meaning it.

Here are a few reasons why we can all be grateful for our illnesses:

  • Disease and illness are the body’s way of telling us what isn’t working. Our bodies know what’s up, even if our minds don’t. Symptoms, whether they are minor or more serious, are signals that what we’re doing – overeating, smoking, drinking, working long hours, hanging on to a relationship that isn’t fulfilling, whatever – isn’t making us happy or healthy. The biggest challenge, of course, is learning how to listen. But it’s nice to have these signs, so we can do something about it. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Disease and illness give us a chance to change, before it’s too late. Nobody is the picture of health one moment and horrendously ill the next. Most of the time, it’s a long road down to sicky-town, and we don’t get there overnight. I grew up with a penchant for bagels, chocolate, candy, ice cream and cake. If it wasn’t for a potentially life-threatening disease, I may never have changed my ways and could have ended up with an illness at age 60 that was far more serious. The good news is, even when confronted with severe, chronic diseases, there is still a chance to turn things around (hey, Meghan did it). It’s never too late to choose to live more healthfully.
  • Disease and illness allow us to experience things we may not have otherwise. Being sick can change your path and expose you to people, places and adventures you wouldn’t have considered before. If I didn’t have Crohn’s, would I have quit my job at 30? Gone back to school to learn an entirely new field and made a whole bunch of incredible friends? Moved to Toronto for three months to play with Meghan and her awesome group of peeps? Maybe. But probably not.
  • Disease and illness remind us to make every day count. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how great your last vacation was, how many friends you’ve got, how pretty your hair looks, how sweet your apartment is. Because when you feel like garbage, you can’t enjoy any of it. There’s nothing quite like an illness to get you out of the future or past and into the present. Being sick reminds us that our time here is fleeting, and we should take advantage of every moment and enjoy it.

Of course, disease is not all sunshine and puppies. Everyone feels frustrated and negative about their lives sometimes. I was recently talking to a friend about my path to healing, and I mentioned how disappointed I was in my latest blood results, what wasn’t going right, what I needed to do better.

Her response? “Sondi, the fact that you have been able to go off of your medication and feel as well as you do is something that should be celebrated every single day when you wake up in the morning.”

That really shoved some perspective into me, folks.

The point is not to dwell on the crappy aspects of illness, or pine for days when you might feel better, but to notice all the wonderful moments in between.

So let’s raise a glass (of green juice) to good health, as well as bad health, because both of them give us reasons to appreciate our time on this earth.

Sondi Bruner a holistic nutritionist, food blogger and freelance writer who can’t stop dreaming about what to create in the kitchen.  You can find her blogging here and follow her on Twitter here.

 

22 Responses to “Finding Blessings In Disease and Illness”

  1. Shannon

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    Great post. I totally agree! My life has changed so drastically due to illness and while other people think how I eat/live is horrible I am so happy with the changes I’ve had to make and new passions I’ve discovered! While it is hard to always be positive… Ok, I take that back, I’m only not positive when I’m earting things that make me feel icky… So that just says it all.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      Thanks for sharing, Shan. Those naysayers are most likely just self-conscious about their own poopy diet and lifestyle. Ever noticed how that happens? You are on the wonderful path of health..and nothing beats that!

      Reply
  2. Christa

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    Such a beautiful post Sondi, what a wonderful perspective. When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease almost 11 years ago, NO ONE knew what it was or what gluten-free was. I was so tired of explaining, I was tired of being the centre of attention when it came to eating out. People always saying “honestly, what CAN you eat??”. It most certainly felt a curse. I didn’t handle it well back then.

    But like you, I’m not sure I would trade it for anything. I don’t think I would be where I am today with my health. I could still be sitting on the couch with a bag of chips, chocolate bar and soda and eat it all in one sitting. What a horrible thought! I now enjoy educating others on the disease, and on what I know about nutrition. It gives me joy and a purpose :)

    Yes, I am quite thankful.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      And we are thankful for you, Christa! Thanks for sharing the love.

      Reply
  3. Sam Kelly

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    Wonderful post, Sondi! I started my cancer journey, and spent many years, in that “why me?” rut! I even found myself, while in full remission, regressing back there whenever I went for a cancer scan or hit a related bump in the road (i.e. dental work out the ying-yang as a result of radiation & fighting with health insurance companies over my pre-existing condition). Sometimes it can be a real struggle, but it is super important that the positives always win out. Healing and staying healthy is all about the mind, body and food equation!

    If I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer I’d be a completely different person today. I’m a more giving, caring, aware, and healthy person and I’m thankful for that. I try to celebrate my victories a little every day. :)

    Thanks again for your wonderful post!

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      Thanks for sharing, Sam! Such a wonderful surgery and congrats again on those recent cancer-free results.

      Reply
  4. Erika

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    Wonderful perspective, Sondi. Thank you for sharing! My own life changed completely when I got Lyme Disease. In the process of healing (which is still ongoing) I changed not only my diet and my habits, but also my friends, my relationships, and my spiritual practice. It’s been lonely and scary at times, but I’ve somehow become a kinder, more grateful, more peaceful person and everyone in my family noticed. Not to mention that my new (is it new after three years?) eating habits would keep a fully healthy person living to 100, so I figure I have a pretty good shot at it. Like Shannon up above, I probably never would have given up soda and sugar had I not gotten ill.

    The blessing of illness and disease can sometimes be difficult to feel when things are really hard, but allowing the process to transform us and soften us rather than calcify and paralyze us is one of the greatest gifts in this world.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      Well said, Erika!

      Reply
  5. Nellie

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    Great post and I couldn’t agree more. I was “flare-free” from Crohn’s for almost 10 years when a new flare began, and I am still in the process of healing. Like Sondi, I am grateful, because the time I took off of work gave me the opportunity to really reflect on my life and even though I thought I was healthy, I have learned so much more and have made even more positive changes in my life. I am so excited by all the new things in my life! Without this recent flare I never would have met Meghan, from whom I have learned and keep learning, so much! Who knew that there IS life after sugar and ice cream!

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      You know it, Nellie!

      Reply
  6. Lauren

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    Love this!!! Thanks for sharing! Crohns has changed me for the better. I’m so grateful for everything in my life. People without illnesses complain sbout little things and I am so happy I am not like that. Life is too good to be miserable!

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      So true, Lauren. Every minute you are mad is 60 seconds you could be happy (my grandmother used to say that!)

      Reply
  7. Sondi

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    Thanks to all for your positive comments. The sun is shining here in Vancouver, but it’s your kind words that are warming the core of my heart.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      Aw…Sonderson! Your post was so wonderful. We have received a lot more comments through Twitter, FB, etc. Thank you again for sharing your journey.

      Reply
  8. Eleanor

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    After my personal struggle and success with health issues I would always tell myself that “the universe gave me a break and showed me nutrition.” But now I question that and think that maybe the break that it gave me was putting me in a situation scary enough to get me to open my eyes all on my own. So did life give me disease or did it give me health? Whichever it was I am thankful. They are just two sides of one thing and there are definitely blessings in both.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      Beautifully said, Eleanor! There are definitely blessings in both- sometimes the universe presents itself in a certain way but really is pushing us towards a different mentality. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  9. Gustoso

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    Healing is a gift.

    Reply
    • Meghan Telpner

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      Truth.

      Reply
  10. marina

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    Yes, health problems and dealing with them using nutrition made me a completely different person – kinder, more loving, more patient of others, and I met so many great people, I have read so many great books and blogs, and learned to make so many healthy things!

    Reply
  11. Stephanie, the Recipe Renovator

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    What a beautiful post, Sondi! I know that if I hadn’t gotten sick, I wouldn’t have learned so many things: patience, self-awareness, accepting myself and others, just to name a few. And I can also say, since I have a 10 week old puppy… puppies are enormously challenging! :)

    Reply
  12. Mark

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    Hello Sondi. I have one quick question for you regarding health. Have you ever used food grade hydrogen peroxide starting at 3 drops 3 times per day, working your way up one drop per day, to 25 drops 3 times per day?

    I would be very interested to hear your opinion on this, and how it may affect your crohns disease.

    Reply
  13. Healing from Crohn’s disease: An update | Cuisinside

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    [...] I wrote earlier in the year in the guest post Finding Blessings in Disease and Illness, the point here is not to dwell on the crappy aspects of illness, or pine for days when I might [...]

    Reply

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