When people are told they have a chronic, incurable disease or condition, and especially if the diagnosis is potentially life-threatening or extremely debilitating, they understandably react with shock, terror, disbelief, anger, and grief. For some people, the diagnosis serves as a wake-up call and they begin to live life more fully than ever before.
A number of people in groups I facilitated told me that their diagnosis of AIDS or cancer actually served to improve the quality of their lives. Sure, they wanted nothing more than to recover from the disease, but they also expressed strongly that their diagnosis helped them take a fresh look at their priorities and explore whether they were truly living by their most important life values. Some who saw their health crisis as an opportunity to live differently had already been doing everything right as far as their health was concerned; living a healthy lifestyle improves the odds but doesn’t prevent serious illness.
Most of these people had no formal mindfulness practice. The diagnosis itself served to open their eyes to the truth of the ubiquity of change and impermanence that eventually becomes evident with such a practice. I saw many of them begin to pursue their life values with greater intentionality.
Have you or someone you know had an inspirational story related to illness?