Finding the Plot

February 6, 2008

Illness teaches us some remarkable lessons. Many of us go through life at such a pace, we rarely have time to dwell on the simpler things in life. We spend our days endeavouring to keep up with the demands of everyday life and it’s all too easy to lose the plot. When serious illness strikes, life is taken out of our control and we are forced into slow gear. For me, this has resulted in hidden benefits which have been beyond my wildest anticipation.

My medical history has taught me to expect the unexpected. This does not mean that I sit out my life waiting for the next thing to go wrong. Now, I’m no saint but I have learnt to appreciate the good things in life and to go with the flow when things aren’t so great. I’ve also found out who my real friends are and who I can rely upon for help, without needing to ask. I think one of the most important things I’ve learnt is that most people only ever want to hear that you’re well. I’m referring to that glazed look given in response to someone rabbiting on about their latest medical drama. When asked about my health, I will always respond positively even when the going is tough. If someone really cares enough they’ll probe further and if they don’t, then I’m not missing much anyway. I have experienced so much stop/start to my life through illness, it no longer holds any drama for me. Only those who need to know are informed. I know that if I showed my hospital CV to some of my family and friends, they would be astounded. That’s another lesson illness has taught me. Families are not necessarily the most supportive when recurrent illness strikes. A once-off event is fine and lots of fuss will be made but don’t expect to get sympathy on a regular basis or you might be in for a surprise. I’ve come to the conclusion that chronic illness is sometimes seen by others as some kind of failure and thus it is not openly acknowledged. I’ve been lucky in that my immediate family are very understanding and supportive and I also have some amazing friends who I never, ever have to ask for help. I used to despair over some people’s odd reactions to illness but these days I see that sort of behaviour as their problem, not mine and I’ve learnt to let it go. Illness does have some bonuses. Adversity sometimes brings out strengths you never knew you possessed and this all helps to ease the lonely journey. Illness has certainly helped me to become more insightful and I find this invaluable in everyday life. When life grinds to a halt, I get to see the world through different eyes. I have referred to this in the past as discovering magic and I can assure you that life takes on a whole new perspective. I’m not a particularly religious person but I’ve been left with a profound belief that I am not only incredibly lucky, I also think I’ve found the plot in life.

It’s a real privilege and a self-indulgence to have the luxury of this forum to share my experiences of illness with anyone who cares to read my story. I’ve received some lovely comments in response which I treasure and for which I’m truly grateful. In early January this year, my blog was short-listed as a finalist for a worldwide Medical Blog Award (Best Patient Blog category) and I was honoured to be the only Irish blog selected. Last week I was nominated for an Irish Blog Award (Best Personal Blog category) which again, is a totally unexpected bonus. I’ve put my story into words in the hope it will help others to see that there’s two sides to every story. My medical saga may not have ended but I live in hope of better times ahead, secure in the knowledge that I can cope with whatever comes my way.

I have one final plea which comes from the heart. I’d like to take the liberty of reminding you to reach out to anyone you know who may be unwell – it doesn’t matter how large or small the gesture is – I simply plead with you not to wait to be asked to help. There’s nothing lost, but plenty to be gained. Take it from one who knows!

What’s your view?

January 14, 2008


Last week I learnt that my blog had been short-listed as a finalist in the Medical Blog Awards 2008. I was initially chuffed to have been nominated for this award and was then even happier to find that my blog had been short-listed by the judges, but that’s where my delight ended. I simply do not agree with public voting as a means of selecting a winner and therefore I’ve chosen to boycott the voting system and to accept the consequences.

Polls opened for public voting last Wednesday and are due to close on Sunday 20 January 2008. Thanks to anyone who’s already given me a vote – it’s good to know that you like my blog. However, the results tally so far appears to prove my point and I now suspect that I’m not the only finalist to hold this viewpoint. ‘The Biospy Report’ currently has the lowest number of votes in it’s category. I’ve no doubt that this is because of my decision not to canvass anyone for their vote though I accept that this will not be the only reason 😦

I believe that if awards are to have any real meaning, then they should be based on merit, not on popularity. What value can you put on an award when the system of voting is so open to abuse?

The Irish Blog Awards this year seem to think likewise.

There are two judging rounds this year, so every nominated blog will be judged. No public vote means it is about quality, not the number of people who like you”.

I’d like to thank Medgadget for hosting this award, but um … no thanks if this really is their method of judging?

I’ve been nominated!

December 31, 2007


And for once, I really don’t know what to say…

My blog, The Biopsy Report, has been nominated by Medgadget for a Medical Weblog Award in the Best Patient’s Blog category. I’m extremely grateful to the person who has submitted my blog for consideration and also to who have sponsored the award. If I were really honest, I’d admit that I’m chuffed but not for the reasons that you’d probably expect.

I started writing this blog earlier in the year following some major surgery. The operation was the culmination of two long, hard years fighting a serious MRSA infection in my skull. As many of you will already know, I’m no stranger to the world of surgery but the blogosphere was a complete novelty to me and I’m still very much a learner in this regard. In my blog, I write about medical issues and experiences from the perspective of the patient. It has proved to be the most therapeutic outlet imaginable and I’m now what could be termed as, a compulsive blogger!

There is not a lot to recommend about life as a long-term patient. Nothing can be taken for granted. The constant stop/start nature of life due to sudden illness is very frustrating and it can feel very unfair at times. It’s a real roller coaster of emotions but I would add that illness does have some compensations. My experiences have taught me to appreciate the simpler things in life and to see the world through different eyes. I have called it discovering magic and I can assure you, it is magical!

Yesterday my blog counter registered 12,000 visitors since June 2007. This is reward enough for me. I put my story out there in the hope that it might help others to see life from a different perspective, that of the patient, and these figures have exceeded all my expectations. A big thank-you to all who have visited my site and most especially to anyone who’s left a comment. I treasure your views. I also hugely enjoy visiting other blogs and especially those listed on my blogroll.

I have my son, Robin, to blame for getting me into the blog world. He spotted in me, a blog waiting to come out – and how right he was! He encouraged, cajoled and bullied me into putting my experiences into words and I have to say, I’ll never be able to thank him enough for introducing me to this world of fun and discovery.

My life has certainly not gone according to plan but this nomination feels like a lovely tribute at the end of a particularly difficult year. And right now, I’m feeling very lucky indeed 😀

HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all!

Your ‘expert by experience’ patient,