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Finding a Quiet but Powerful Strength in Accepting My Illness

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Earlier this year, I wrote my four brothers an email with the specifics of the surgery I would be getting in May. My parents and my sister already knew the particulars of the very intimate procedure, since I talk with them regularly on the phone.

My brothers and I talk less frequently. I couldn’t bring myself to call each of them and go through the whole story four more times. Plus, they’re, you know – guys – and I’m, well – a prude – so I opted for electronic communication.


Before I hit “send” on my email, I showed it to my husband Michael, who said, “That’s brave.”

It didn’t feel brave, it felt necessary. But it got me wondering about what it means to be brave in the face of chronic illness.

Then, on my blog, I wrote about acceptance, and it got me wondering:

What takes more strength – to accept, or to fight?

You’d think at first glance that of course fighting takes more strength. When you’re facing chronic or terminal illness, fighting means painful, time-consuming treatments, endless researching, getting second opinions, lifestyle changes and enough drugs and supplements to warrant a second mortgage, all the while staying hopeful and positive. Phew. I’ve certainly done my share of all of this.

But remember the fight-or-flight autonomic response you learned about in high school? Fighting in a crisis is something we’re engineered to do. It comes naturally.

In a way, it’s easy.

Flight is our other reflex in a crisis. To run away like this is sometimes the smartest form of self-preservation. But there’s no running away when chronic illness creeps into your life. So it’s easy to give up or give in.

I would never fault anyone for getting to this place of resignation or complacency.

But acceptance is different. Acceptance comes from a place of strength. It feels empowering to me, like being in a yoga mountain or warrior pose. Powerful but still. Confident.

When I feel my worst, I’m not very accepting. In those hours, I’m more hot mess than mountain.

But in my better moments, when I sit back, think about my life and realize it will not be what I imagined, that’s when I see acceptance peeking over my shoulder. It beckons me. It wants me to follow.

I’m trying to listen and I want to move toward acceptance. I hope I’m strong enough to take that step.

Wait, I take that back. I am strong enough. Right now, I’m on the precipice, not yet ready to step off and trust. But when the time comes, I will rock acceptance.

I am a warrior.

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Originally published: August 10, 2017
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