It sucks when a health issue strikes at the most inconvenient time. You’re busy, you got a life, work to do, people to see, family to take care, fun to have. And a health issue can stop everything. Or maybe not stop everything, but it can take up time and energy you would much rather be doing something else with.

Back in June I wrote about getting a diagnosis of arthritis in my hip, how that felt like a loss to me and moving on from feeling sad and bleh about it.

More has happened since then

In relation to my hip. And my breast.

All whilst trying to sort out our temporary accommodation, moving house, starting a full house refurbishment, organising and running a family weekend for children affected by rare neurological inflammatory conditions and their families, coaching, facilitating, trying to keep up the exercise (did not succeed at that), friend’s 50th birthday celebration in Majorca (that was nice), etc., etc.

Basically, during my busiest period of the year. Most inconvenient.

But health issues wait for no one and nothing

When a health issue strikes, it just strikes. That’s it. It won’t wait for you to finish that really interesting project, or have that party, or go on that holiday, or even have your baby. Health issues are genuinely non-discriminatory like that.

A picture of a couple discussion what they are doing on the weekend and their schedules. There are little green and red shapes near the woman's hip and breast. They are impending health issues she knows nothing about because they haven't yet manifested themselves or they are just a niggle. The point here is that health issues wait for no one and nothing. When a health issue strikes, it is going to strike.

So what do you do when a health issue strikes?

I came up with ten things you can do which will help. And I was using them myself last month.

Lesson One – You get on with it

This one we learn pretty quickly. We can’t do much about the fact that the health issue has happened. So we have to get on with it. And for many of us, that feels like the best and often times the only option.

Sometimes the other option of doing nothing can lead to death, ongoing disability or a feeling of powerlessness. So doing nothing doesn’t feel like an option. We want to live and live as well as we can.

Lesson two – It’s ok to get upset

I did about my hip. When I got back from Majorca, I had an appointment with the consultant. That was needed as the diagnosis was severe progressive osteoarthritis in my right hip.

Admission here: I did not mention the severe and progressive bits in June’s blog. Just felt too dramatic to me at the time in the context of how my hip affects my life. But I’m mentioning it now because I think I was downplaying things at the time.

The consultant’s verdict – It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s a question of ‘when’ a hip replacement needs to happen.

I’m not even 50. I feel too young to have a hip replacement.

But health issues don’t discriminate based on age either. Or gender. I shed some tears.

And it’s important that if you are upset, to express your upset-ness in a way that works for you. I wrote about this not long ago.

When a health issue strikes, it’s just gonna strike

Two days after hearing that verdict, I went to the GP regarding a pain I had been having in my right armpit for the past three months.

I know, I know. I should have gone sooner. But between everything happening and focusing on my hip, I didn’t have the capacity to deal with that too.

But whilst in Majorca, I was having discharge from my right breast. (Sorry if this is too much info.) My body was speaking to me. When I called to make the appointment with the GP, one just happened to be available that afternoon. I felt lucky.

The GP did a breast examination and referred me to the local breast clinic.

The breast clinic called me four days later on the Monday morning saying they had scheduled me for the coming Friday, but someone had cancelled and an appointment was available in two hours. Was I free to come? I felt lucky again. The universe was sending me a message.

I made myself free. And off to the hospital I went. Packing a soft easy-to-wear bra just in case.

When a health issue strikes. I was wondering if that was happening when I had to go to the breast clinic for pain. And one did. They had to do a biopsy and after that it's always good to wear a soft bra after it.

This is how the breast clinic works

Regarding preliminary scanning that is. I was in this clinic last year being scanned and biopsied so I got to know the routine.

I saw the nurse practitioner who took my history, details of my issue and did a breast examination. A sample was taken of the discharge.

Then I had the mammogram. It’s like having your boob squashed in a machine. Am Ample of Bosom so there’s a lot to squash. But it is necessary squashing because it helps to tell you if something is amiss.

Picture of a woman having a mammogram. When a health issue strikes you may have to have medical procedures that hurt and can be embarrassing. But they can be lifesaving.

Lesson Three – Humour can help you get on with it

It helps me.

If they see something amiss in your mammogram results, you get called back for an ultrasound.

I was called back for an ultrasound.

‘You’ll be ok Barbara, you’ll be ok. You can do this.’ I kept telling myself, to reassure myself.

Lesson Four – Find 101 ways to reassure yourself

At least 101. Maybe more. Because you’re going to need it to get through scans, biopsies, treatment, rehabilitation, and life itself.

How do you reassure yourself when the going gets tough in relation to your #health issue? #seriousillness #chronicillness Share on X

The consultant radiologist scanned me as they found an ‘indeterminant area’. You got to love the language they use. As I enjoy language, am pretty good with it, and good at asking questions too, I launched into curiosity question-mode.

‘So, tell me, what exactly is an indeterminant area?’

And using my best probing question approach to get info.

But those consultants are pretty good at remaining evasive. And they need to be. They have to get samples of what is going on and get those tested before they can definitively determine what that ‘indeterminant area’ actually is. They don’t want to worry patients unnecessarily or tell them the wrong thing either.

But she did use the word ‘lesion’ and of course I pounced with a probing question to try and find out a little more about this lesion.

Lesson Five – A breast biopsy is MUCH better than a lumbar puncture

So I had a biopsy. My sense that I had better bring my soft bra just in case was a good one.

I chose not to watch because it was just all a bit close. And I was grateful I knew what to expect this time around. This was my second biopsy on my right breast in two years. The universe is trying to tell me something I think.

I chatted to the consultant and nurse a bit and the consultant remarked on how well I was doing. I responded, ‘This biopsy is MUCH better than a lumbar puncture, trust me.’ But this is just my opinion based on my experience and there are people who may feel a breast biopsy is the worst procedure.

Lumbar punctures are awful procedures. When I had one done when in the acute phase of Transverse Myelitis, it took three attempts to get a sample of my cerebral spinal fluid that didn’t have blood in it and they had to get a bigger needle. It was weirdly painful, and I had a hangover headache for a week afterwards.

That finished, I was bandaged up, put the soft bra on and went to see the nurse practitioner. She explained that they would hope to know by the following week at the latest what was going on and they would either call me with the results or make an appointment.

That is code for, ‘If it’s good news, we will call you. If not so good news, we’ll make an appointment to see you.’

They’re quick to get you seen, efficient, professional, and kind. Kudos to the Sir William Rouse Unit at Kingston Hospital.

Lesson Six – You focus on what you can control

Scans and procedures done, it’s a case of waiting for the results.

It’s like living in a no-man’s land. You don’t know what will be or happen so you don’t know what to do now and how to prepare. Living with the not knowing in that interim time is not easy.

It’s not uncommon to feel you are not in control, but actually you can focus on what you can control in the here and now. I reminded myself of that. I couldn’t control that I was having pain in my armpit and breast nor that I was having breast discharge. I couldn’t control what the diagnosis was going to be. But I could do something about the here and now.

And I reminded myself of that. It’s one of the ways I reassure myself. (Lesson 4) So I consciously focused my energies on my work and the many other day to day stuff that was happening.

When you feel like you’re not in control due to a health issue, stop, bring yourself into the hear-and-now, breathe and remind yourself of what you can do in the here-and-now and focus on that #takecontrol #seriousillness Share on X

Lesson Seven – Get help. Receive help

Despite being matter of fact about it all, I did shed tears. (Lesson 2) And speak to my therapist about it. I have a weekly therapy appointment so I used that to get and receive help. I received cuddles from my husband.

This is really important. Our society unfortunately prizes doing everything yourself. When a health issue strikes, sometimes being able to do everything yourself is not possible. You may need help with the kids, making meals, keeping yourself relatively sane. Receiving help doesn’t mean you are ‘less than’. It actually helps you to get things done and continue living your life.

A side benefit of all this is if you have the right people helping you, i.e. they want to help you and have the capability to help you, it benefits them as much as it benefits you. Win-win.

When a health issue strikes it is important to get help. The Willingness and Capability Matrix helps you to choose the people who can help. If they have low or no capability or aren't willing, find other people to help you if you can. If they are very willing but not very capable, think about the tasks they can help you with. If they are very capable but not willing to help you, think about when you ask for their help. And if they are very capable and willing, then ask for their help.

Lesson Eight – Prioritise what you’ve got on

Sometimes when a health issue strikes, you may be too unwell to do much or you can do most things but not some things. And you may have more appointments than usual. (Had three in one week for three different things.)

So prioritise what you can and need to do. If you can’t do it because physically you are unable to, get help if you need to. Otherwise, it will have to wait.

If it’s something you need to do, like look after your children or do a piece of work because it puts food on the table (to feed yourself and said children), do what you can. It doesn’t have to be to your usual standards.

Make sure not to overdo things. Doing less does not make you less than as a person.

Lesson 9 – Do nice things for you

Take a warm relaxing bath. Or chat with a friend. Read a book you’ve been wanting to. Light a candle. Make yourself a posh coffee or tea. Give yourself time and do nothing.

These are the little things that can be 5 minutes or 60 minutes. It doesn’t matter how long they are. The key thing is you are doing something you want for you.

Lesson 10 – Figure out what the universe is trying to tell you and do something about it.

One thing that repeatedly comes to me is taking time out for me by doing a body meditation. When I’ve done this, I have felt amazing benefits. I need to do more of it.

The other thing that comes up is inflammation. I notice I tend to get health issues that end in -itis, which means inflammation. Transverse Myelitis. Arthritis. What is it about inflammation and my body? 

Those two things have occurred to me so far. It may take a bit of time to figure this out and that is ok.

What is it like for you when a health issue strikes?

How did you handle it? What worked for you? Or if you are in the midst of it, what kind of support would help you?

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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