The Resilient, Adaptable Human Spirit
by Tamara Barto
The dictionary defines “resilience” as the ability to recover rapidly. Although you may not feel like you’ve actually recovered, you will somehow adapt to your changing circumstances. There is nothing like a serious illness or loss to change your “normal” life. In the middle of the chaos of appointments, procedures, and more appointments, you may feel out of control and helpless to establish a new routine. Little by little, you will find that a “new normal” evolves.
Gradually, your body and mind begin to adapt. Things that were significant before your diagnosis may no longer seem so important. If you used to push yourself to get everything done before allowing yourself to rest, then you might find that a new routine of a little work followed by a lot of rest works best for you now. Surgery and treatment can make dramatic physical changes to your body. But people who become disabled or disfigured due to an accident or illness do manage to carry on.
Little by little, you will find that a “new normal” evolves.
When minor things happen to your body, like a cut on your thumb or blister on your heel, you adjust the way you move to protect it and to keep it from causing you pain. Surgery, recovery, and learning to function with new limitations are major adjustments that require much more time to adapt. You may grieve for the life you lived before, but that doesn’t change your current situation. Slowly, with support from your healthcare team, friends, and family, a “new normal” life will evolve, and it will be worth living.
The human spirit is amazingly resilient. So many people have overcome extremely difficult circumstances to live a life full of purpose. You can and will carry on. Your body, by its very nature, is designed to repair itself and to heal. It takes time, but you will heal.
Embrace the life you are living and realize no one can live it exactly like you. Strive for wellness, no matter what form that takes, and give your spirit time to adapt to the new you.
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Tamara Barto has worked at Pomona Valley Hospital’s Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center in Pomona, CA, since 1993. Her husband is a kidney cancer survivor, and she has had to adjust to multiple health problems.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2011.