It is tough recovering from a serious illness or a major surgery. Even a “minor procedure” can drag you down for days; so it isn’t surprising that a serious illness is a huge roadblock. It doesn’t take many weeks of illness or injury to make you feel old, helpless, and depressed with your life. Recognizing that fatigue is normal is the first step toward learning how to cope. Fatigue is nature’s way of telling you to slow down. Talk about challenges: depression, feeling helpless and worries about a relapse are very real and frightening thoughts.
Remember how your mother would tell you to get up, get cleaned up, and get dressed even when you felt like crap? I can remember feeling like that when I was a kid. I would be feverish, achy, sick to my stomach, and so tired that I just wanted to die, but her words were always the same. Her remedy always worked though and I would not only feel better, but I would be proud that I had made the effort. She would combine those stern admonitions with TLC (that would be tender loving care) of course, and we knew we could do anything. I can remember warm blackberry wine and a special milk pudding that we only got when we were sick, and it all worked like magic. I found myself giving the same advice to my residents when I worked in Assisted Living. Getting up and moving around were just the first step, but it wasn’t long before sitting in the chair and walking a little further each day did the trick. Of course pneumonia, open heart surgery or chemotherapy all come with their own set of demons, but increasing activity is still the therapy recommended most
Our HMO puts out a newsletter each quarter that features articles on health care. The articles are both interesting and informative, and I usually find at least one that catches my interest. The winter NW Health 2012 (ghc.org) edition featured an article on recovering from a serious illness, and of course the focus was on how being active speeds up recovery time. It isn’t easy for a senior and I’ve known many, including my own mother, who decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. It made me sad. A strong and speedy recovery requires a lot of work, but it all boils down to how much your life and your independence means to you. If you are determined to recover and be better than you were before, it is entirely possible. Exercise is the way to accomplish that. Many HMO’s and other medical insurance companies offer discounted or free memberships to fitness centers everywhere.
You need to be the one in charge. It isn’t up to your nurse or your daughter to have to beg you to rise to the occasion. You need to accept what has happened and make a plan for your recovery. You will have to exercise in order to get your life back. Every condition and every person is unique so your treatment will have to be vetted by your doctor, but he/she will be pleased that you want to make the effort. Your job will be to do what they tell you and to take really good care of yourself. Adequate nutrition, plenty of rest and exercise are areas you will be asked to focus on. Recognize that recovery takes time and some days are going to be better than others. Take heart in the fact that researchers tell us that a positive attitude is the most important thing that you can bring to the table.