November 27, 2014

9 Life Lessons from a Long Term Illness.

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I recently celebrated an anniversary.

It has been nine years since my life was irrevocably changed when I fell critically ill with Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The challenges I have faced, including how to manage what is possibly a life-long disability, have seen me grow beyond belief and taught me some pretty valuable life lessons.

And it’s only fair to share. So, in celebration of my nine-year anniversary, let’s pop the champers and reflect on my top nine lessons learned on this rollercoaster ride called life:

1. “Life is short: wear your party pants!” ~ Loretta LaRoche

You don’t need to get sick like I did to start living life to the fullest.

Life is a lot more fun when I live in the moment and let go a little. I eat my cake off Grandma’s best china tea set. I strut out with my favourite ‘It’ bag on my arm every damn day; no saving it ‘for best’ around here!

I laugh more. Love hard. Shine bright.

And make every moment count.

2. The body has an amazing, innate ability to heal itself when given half a chance.

But we have to help it out a little bit and nurture the environment so the cells can work to our advantage.

And the number one way we can greatly improve our body’s powerful self-healing properties?

Yes! By eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Time to get some dark leafy greens into our bellies!

3. Friends come and go. Let them.

What I know is this: adversity is the true friendship test.

Living with a chronic medical condition has shone a spotlight on my friend group. There have been friend cleanses! Adversity has revealed the friends who will always have my back. And equally, the insincerity of the false, fair-weather friends who needed weeding out.

There is an old saying: “Friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” To meet a need, help us grow and to teach us life lessons. And sometimes, when the purpose has been fulfilled, those friends will fade away.

People change and so do relationships. Trust the process. We come out stronger because of it.

4. Happiness is a choice.

It’s not always easy to be happy. There are days when it takes a lot of hard work and seems near impossible. Sometimes it is. But I believe the power to change my life and create happiness ultimately resides within me.

Not convinced?

Bust out a beaming smile. Take a few moments at the start of each day to practice gratitude and appreciate what you have while you still have it.

I personally find it really hard not to feel just a teeny tiny bit happy when rocking a megastar smile or an attitude of gratitude!

5. “You were born into this life because you are strong enough to live it.” ~ Anonymous

Life is full of challenges. We are not going to be defined by those challenges but by what we do with those challenges.

6. It’s okay to not have your shit together every moment of every day.

No one has his or her shit together 100% of the time. If we did there wouldn’t be anything to talk about!

7. Fur children really do boost our health and happiness.

When you come home to a purr, cheep, tail wag or even a guilty expression (‘No mum, I swear I didn’t dig up the garden!’), how do you feel?

I feel happier, less anxious.

Caring for my bundle of fluff gives me something positive to focus on and takes me out of myself, helping me to feel better about my situation. Even at his naughtiest, when he made electrical cables his go-to snack and ran up the repair bills, my boy has brought me much laughter and joy, which is integral to my healing.

8. Humour is good for the soul.

Without humour in our lives, stresses become more stressful, hardships and grief more difficult to bear, and illness more difficult to conquer.

Humour has been my lifeline. It leads to laughter and lightens my load; and in that moment, even if it is just one moment, it makes the difficulties of life seem less so.

9. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others

Next time you are on a plane, pay special attention to the flight safety announcement.

We are given express permission to put on our own oxygen mask first before assisting anyone else.


Because the airlines know that only when we first help ourselves, when we prioritize our own self-care, can we effectively help others.

That bubble bath is calling my name.



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Author: Bree Hogan

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Erik Drost at Flickr 



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