Friday, 14 December 2012

It's All Relative

When I was in the hospital at the ALS Clinic the other day, I had a moment to talk to the neurologist about how his work with ALS patience impacted him. Surprisingly, he described his work as uplifting, saying that almost all of the ALS patients were positive in their approach to their disease and their life. He went on to say that "patients with other diseases whine and complain about things that ALS patients consider insignificant".

I am sure this is true, if only based on the few ALS patients I've talked with so far. Inevitably they talk about what they can do, what they are doing, what they want to do. They almost never talk about what they have lost or what they can no longer do. And when they talk about these losses, they talk about the fact of it not the feelings of it. They really are a positive lot.

Maybe this rapid acceptance, positivity and calm rise up because we know what is happening, it's relatively painless, and that there is nothing we can do about it. After all, if you have cancer, even the worst forms of that dreaded disease, you can get treatment, difficult and painful though it may be, and you can believe in a longer future. Now image yourself, suffering through the pain of treatment, wondering how long this pain will continue and knowing that even after all this pain you might still die. At least I don't have to worry about that.

There are other parts of this disease that lead to a positive attitude. While my muscles are leaving me, my mind is staying with me. My humour is still sharp and I can still snap an idea up and run with it. (Well, not so much run as shuffle, but you know what I mean.) Now imagine the challenge of staying sharp while drugged up with pain killers and the myriad of chemicals that the drug companies tell us we need to treat diseases like cancer and such. Once again, my disease, while challenging in terms of treatment and outcome, is relatively easy; very little pain, lots support, lots of devices to make living easier. All I have to do is live until I die.

That's what we all are doing.


  1. You are a wise man Richard. I am proud of you and your way of looking at your life.

  2. YES!
    I have been told that people with my 'condition/disease' are often very adaptable as well. Our losses come gradually and so there is time to figure out a new way to do it. Whereas those who have a sudden, catastrophic loss have a tougher time adapting to needing a new way to get it done or move on and let it go.
    I am glad to hear it is relatively painless, too. That is a biggie!