One of the most important lessons my life has taught me, especially over the last 13 years, is the need the keep moving forward.
Unlike a broken leg, a sore tooth or a bout of gastro, a chronic illness is [usually] not going away (until a cure is found).
This is not to say that it won't improve at times or go into remission - sometimes it will. However, even if it does, you will always live with the fear of its return - as it always will. It sits there under the surface, as a reminder not to get too excited about your period of good health, as it could be wisked from under you at any moment.
Living with a chronic illness is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not something that is over as fast as it began. Nor is it something that requires short bursts of enthusiasm and energy. Instead, living with a chronic illness requires you to learn, develop and practice the skills of:
...persistence, tenacity, discipline, dedication and commitment.
You need persistency and tenacity to keep moving forward and not give up, even when your body (and/or mind) is desperate to, just to have a rest from it all. To try different treatments when old ones become ineffective. To find new healthcare professionals when you need a fresh pair of eyes, or develop yet another side effect or related health condition.
You need discipline to take your medications, turn up to your appointments, infusions, scans and exercise classes, even when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired and just want it all to stop. Discipline to drag yourself out of bed everyday, put your pink lipstick on and face whatever the day, your body or mind throws at you.
You need the dedication and committment to yourself to stay as well as you possibly can with the resources and support on offer to you, for the benefit of your own life and the lives of those who rely on you.
There is no quick sprint to the finish line with a chronic illness, it is a marathon and you need to be willing to develop the skills to be able to sustain - in the long term. Some of the qualities needed are inherant and some are skills that can be learnt.
But if you master these skills, you will learn to find joy in life, despite ill-health. You will learn to be grateful for the challenges life throws at you, as you will see the benefits it gives you. Of course you will have hard days when your discipline will wane and your tenacity will be tested. But you will be more resilient to recover from such days and you will find it easier to find meaning in your journey again.
What do you think is the most important quality or skill to continue on the marathon of living with a chronic illness? I would love to hear your thoughts below.