Facing Chronic Illness in a Christian Way

by frankbeswick

Chronic illness is a spiritual challenge for believers, a challenge that I now must face.

After a long delay waiting to see a doctor [specialist] in our wonderful, but heavily overburdened, but much loved National Health Service I managed to get a telephone appointment with a specialist who confirmed my fears. I am suffering a chronic condition which requires treatment. Chronic conditions last through a long period of time. Last night I prayed to God to help me face it in a Christian manner. I have been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

Photo courtesy of art-tower, of Pixabay

The Situation

Regular readers of my articles will be aware that for the last two years I have been suffering a long-term medical condition. My articles on walking have finished, as I now cannot walk long distances, and I have been using a walking stick for some time. I have given up my beloved allotment, as I was too unwell to manage it any longer. I concur with the Buddhist teaching in this case that there is no value in clinging to a possession. I am continuing to garden in the local park, where I do Wednesday mornings.

Part of a Christian response to illness is not to let it prevent you from serving others, though your service must adapt. My gardening is a form of service. True, at the local park, Victoria Park, in Stretford, I am not the leader, and I am not expected to do much kneeling down, but  my many years of gardening experience and advanced gardening qualifications are valued by the leaders, two kindly ladies,who treat me as a respected source of advice. Yet it is important to emphasise that one who wants to serve must accept the service given him by others and not let destructive pride obstruct. The leaders always bring me a chair so that I can where possible sit to do a job or take rests. I accept with gratitude.

Writing is a form of service that defines me. It will continue and hopefully when the treatment begins there will be less interruption than there has been,  for there have been times when I have felt too tired to write.  Fortunately, while the illness is rooted in my brain, it is motor skills, particularly balance and walking, that are affected and my mental capacities are, thanks be to God, undiminished. But my condition slows me down, so expect a longer time between articles.

I can, however, pray. As  a Christian's body fails their mind is still capable of prayer. I can still pray for others. Adding to my daily prayers makes good sense. I like to rest in the afternoon, reading and watching television, so some prayer time might be fitted into my timetable here. You should always find time for God. Praying for others is a way of serving. I can do that.

Now that my condition has been  diagnosed treatment can begin. It is generally successful, though I will be on medication for life. 

Bearing the Cross

Christians were told by Jesus that anyone who wanted to follow him must take up his cross and follow him. This does not mean looking for suffering, such as martyrdom, a practice that is strictly forbidden, but it means facing up to life's duties and troubles without compromising your Christian moral  standards. Ill-health is a cross that we all must bear and do so  according to moral standards.

Bearing the cross involves not slipping into selfishness. It is easy to slip into the mind set of thinking that your illness gives you some kind of priority on attention and precedence over others. It is important that you recognize that others have needs as well as you do and that while your needs are strong not every need or perceived need or desire of yours is priority. Bearing the cross means disciplining yourself to avoid self-pity, which is a spiritually deadening form of egocentricity. I discipline myself to look at others who are worse off than I am, and there are plenty of them.

I am trying to be a good Christian, and this is a    demanding task. I think it important to count your blessings. I have a loving wife and family, good friends, a supportive community, a peaceful country to live in, a comfortable home, food and warmth, interesting things to do and enough money for my needs. Moreover, While the average age for developing the disease is 56, I showed the first symptoms in my late sixties, so the disease  has not as much time to mature with me as it does with many others. When I asked the consultant how long before I reach stage 5, his reply was, "You are not going to live to 120, but you are good for another 10 to 15 years." Considering that I am 71 that will be sufficient.

Trying to blame others for your woes is a form of displacement. True, a young doctor misdiagnosed my problems as orthopaedic some years ago, but she put me through the Parkinson's checks, and I passed them. So she misinterpreted the main symptom, my gait, as an orthopaedic difficulty. I am uninterested in blaming her, the mistake was reasonable and failure to  recognize early Parkinson's is a major source of misdiagnosis.

Responding in a spiritual way involves not giving in to the side-effects of the medication, which can make you more impulsive. The consultant warned of people who gamble small amounts suddenly gambling large sums. However, as I do not gamble at all this will not be a problem. But the warning is useful, for I will add prayers for self-control to my daily regime.

Reflections

;Just as I was finishing the previous block of text Maureen arrived back home with my medication and a portable blood pressure machine, the latter being needed because the Parkinson's medication might have implications for my blood pressure. She has been superb during this bleak period, and I could not have coped without her.  I have taken the first tablet and will spend the rest of the afternoon resting. I have some distance to go and so I am taking things carefully/ I am feeling a bit better, but I suspect that there is a psychological component to this sensation. There are hard times yet to come, no doubt, but I think that I have passed the nadir. 

I conclude with the observation that so many people over the last two years have been kind and sympathetic, men and women. Humans were created by God for goodness, and goodness can only be manifest if others have need and vulnerability.

Three Wizzley writers have given me support: Veronica, my younger sister; Black Spaniel Gallery, who is a friend whose supportive messages were welcome and wise; and Derdriu Marriner, whose messages have ever been a boost to me. 

I will keep you informed.

 

I am an Amazon associate and earn money from qualifying purchases from this page.   

Updated: 09/14/2021, frankbeswick
 
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Veronica 7 days ago

I did a short article on here a while ago.

https://wizzley.com/parkinson-s-disease/

Veronica 7 days ago

The Parkinson s meds only actually work on Parkinson's. we were told if they don't work, then it is not Parkinson's. They replace the dopamine .

frankbeswick 7 days ago

I know this, and I am aware that with me the disease will have less time to progress than it would have in younger folk. The average age for contracting it is 56-60, so I am fortunate. I can feel in myself that the medication is working.

Veronica 7 days ago

You are " fortunate " to get this disease in your 70s . Our Prime minister Johnson's mother got it at 40, Actor Michael Fox in his 30s, my husband got it in his 50s .
Firstly I would be thankful for many years of health and fitness
Secondly, think on all the tips I gave you .
Thirdly KEEP AS PHYSICALLY ACTIVE AS POSSIBLE.
and always PRAY....

frankbeswick 7 days ago

The professor who saw me said what you said, that new treatments are being developed, such as stem cells.

DerdriuMarriner 8 days ago

You and your sister and your respective families have my best prayers and wishes. Scientific breakthroughs such as nuclear fusion and pandemic vaccines occur despite COVID-related (and other) setbacks and suffering. Ten to 15 years seem like more than sufficient time for medical scientists early on to cure Parkinson's disease. Or so I would hope and pray.

blackspanielgallery 11 days ago

First, you can participate in gardening by offering to speak at garden clubs, even those that would not be able to offer an honorarium for a lecture. Perhaps sharing with a book length manuscript would also be therapeutic.
Being active and keeping the mind otherwise engaged is a good therapy. Dwelling on an illness is meaningless when it is beyond the thought of actively planning and implementing care of oneself. You are a strong person of mind and faith, so you will do well.

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