Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Courageous Look at Disease

We all will face health challenges at some point in our life. Although some people will pass away quickly, many of us will undergo a more gradual process. The disease that kills us may take only a few days, or it may take years in the process. Chronic disease starting at a very young age, sometimes back to the moment of conception, afflicts many of us. So it is a worthwhile task to examine how you will react to disease, how you will look at disease. Will we face it with courage, or will it overwhelm our spirit? In order to prepare yourself to act courageously in the face of disease, it can be helpful to look at Stiliyan Petrov, the Aston Villa captain midfielder, after he was diagnosed with acute leukemia.

Petrov was in peak condition, an active, professional footballer. The popular, consistent player had made 30 appearances for his team that season. Then after a game against Arsenal, he wasn't feeling well and made an appointment to see the doctor. He got some tests, which discovered that he had acute leukemia. Within one week. Petrov announced his retirement from football so he could devote his attention to the leukemia.
But then what did he do? He didn't hide from the public nor did he wallow in his new diagnosis. Instead, the very next day after his retirement announcement, he went to his team's game against Chelsea. He cheered them on and gave his team his support, knowing that they would support him back.
One important thing that Petrov did was to share his situation with his closest friends. As a public figure, he made the decision to also share it with all of his fans. By doing this, he was strengthened, and encouraged to give his all to overcome the disease. He shared what was going on with his family and friends, and got strength from their support.
Another important action that Petrov took was to take some of the focus off of himself. Of course, he needed to concentrate on fighting the leukemia, that's why he retired. Yet, in spite of the sudden serious diagnosis, he nevertheless still showed a genuine interest in, and concern for, his teammates. Through his outward, positive encouragement of others, he demonstrated for them his courage in the face of disease.
How will each of us respond to disease? When it comes upon us, will we look at disease with courage, or with fear? By building up courage today, perhaps through the regular practice of courage builders, we can help ensure a courageous response.
Published by Tom Heston MD 4/10/2012
Tom Heston MD is a Johns Hopkins trained physician who practices clinical medicine in the Pacific Northwest.