Updated: Apr 16
Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Parkinson’s Disease.
These are illnesses I never imagined I would be discussing in regards to my peers. Our parents? Maybe.
A couple of weeks ago, I had my gal pals over for a glass of wine. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and one of our close friends had just received a devastating diagnosis: shortly after his 60th birthday, they learned he had Myelodsyplastic Syndrome - aka bone marrow or blood cancer.
We were circling the wagons to offer support to her and to let her know we were there for whatever she needed.
Then another friend, who has been recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis, shared her experience with the various medications prescribed and how despite success early on in the treatment only led to more excruciating pain as her body became used to the drugs. Not only that but her husband had been told that he had Parkinson's disease.
What? At 55? Is this where we are now??? As we gathered around my kitchen table, a glass of wine in hand, catching up on the various treatment plans, upcoming doctor’s visits and prognoses, I was struck by how our conversations had evolved over the years, at this very same table.
15 years ago, we were talking about which little league team the boys were on, the latest drama at school, or simply where we were going to go on our upcoming family vacations. Any conversation about disease or illness was usually relegated to an aging parent, or on the rare and sad occasion, about a friend of a friend, or a mom at school.
This didn't mean we hadn't had our share of challenges in our lives. I lost my sister 25 years earlier when she was only 31, and another friend lost her sister to cancer a few years earlier. The majority of us had already lost one or both parents, and while we had each had our own brushes with health scares, thankfully none had turned out to be serious.
But this felt different.
Not only the sheer number of us who had been affected from this small group, but also the seriousness of the diagnoses.
In contemplation of what to write for this blog that focused on the 5th pillar of the Live BRIGHTer platform, – Prioritize Health – I struggled with having something of interest to talk about.
But, as I started to reflect upon that kitchen conversation, it suddenly hit me.
I realized that this is life for any of us at this age.
That drove home how important this pillar really is. Prioritizing health isn’t just about our physical bodies. While eating right, getting enough exercise, and going to the doctor regularly are all very important, this Pillar also encompasses the critical elements of spiritual and mental health.
Imagine a 3 legged stool --comprised of these three aspects of overall health– with each leg equally supporting the other. Without one, the other two legs take on even more importance as they are forced to bear the weight of the compromised structure.
While my friends are dealing with their own – or their husband’s - declining physical health, their mental and spiritual health takes on even more importance – kicking in the much-needed support on this difficult journey.
Both of my friends are very spiritual women, relying on their Catholic faith during times of stress and hardship. And, that spiritual health helps to provide the mental boost they need in order to support them during hard times.
In fact when I asked one of my friends if her faith played a role in helping her navigate this challenging journey, her answer was 'Oh yes...1000 percent! If I didn't have that, I don't know what I would do.'
Thankfully, they both have a strong support system of friends and family – a shout out to the importance of the “R” (Relationships Pillar) -- a safety net when we need it most.
We can take the time to prioritize our health on a daily basis, but there will still be times, throughout our lives, when unpreventable illness or other traumatic events can occur. It is then, when that leg is knocked out from under us, that we have to ‘white knuckle’ it and rely on the other two legs for strength and balance.
So, as we shift our focus this month towards prioritizing health overall, let me ask you…
How are you doing?
Are you doing everything you can to take care of your body? Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, exercising and eating right? If not, this is a good opportunity to pull up your socks and put a plan in place.
What about your spiritual and mental health?
Are they ready to support you should the unexpected show up? If the answer is no, how can you explore or re-engage with that spiritual side of you? Whether it’s organized religion or simply a belief in a higher power?
Living BRIGHTer is about incorporating all the key elements into your life on a daily basis, and building a vital toolbox to support you, so that you can experience more joy, balance and harmony with the world around you, as you navigate this beautiful thing called life.
Some day in the not too distant future, I hope we are back at my table talking about more mundane yet irritating things like menopausal brain fog and whether or not we've signed up for AARP. But until then, we will be circling the wagons, supporting each other and providing a safe place to rest on a 3 legged stool that will bear the weight for them.
Are you ready to Live BRIGHTer?
Wherever you are on your journey, just know you too can rediscover what is important to YOU – I can help you. Simply sign up for a free 30 minute Pathway to Purpose Breakthrough Session where we'll talk one on one to dig into one of your biggest challenges you're struggling with when it comes to finding fulfillment in your life. I'll put together a mini plan for you so you can begin getting on with your life!
Click on my calendar link to sign up for a FREE 30 minute Pathway to Purpose Breakthrough Session now. https://calendly.com/bridgetbelden/30min