Finding beauty after a medical diagnosis

Being diagnosed with an illness, whatever type it may be, always comes as a shock. And naturally, the more serious the illness the greater the shock. But it is possible for shock to be transformed into equanimity.

Common reactionsperfect-rainbow

While everyone experiences illness in different ways, there are reactions to receiving a diagnosis that we all seem to have in common. Emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and pain are all part of the process of getting to grips with a new way of life. And we all seem to experience these emotions in varying degrees as we’re forced to overcome, live with, or surrender to illness.

But as far as I’ve discovered in life, we’re never really overwhelmed by an emotion for no reason (no matter the strength of that feeling). Consider the following explanations.

  • Fear helps us fast track to a safe solution in a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Anger can act as a warning bell that something is wrong, and can motivate us to stand up for ourselves or someone we love.
  • Sadness helps us to slow down, and signals to those around us that we need support.
  • Pain is seen as nature’s unpleasant but crucial way of warning us of danger – it stops us repeating an action that causes pain.

A phoenix of hope

There are characteristics that these emotions have in common. There’s clarity, strength, purpose, and love (such as the love of life – fighting to hold on to what we know or what we want to defend).

Sometimes, out of a maelstrom of confusion following a diagnosis, a phoenix of hope can arise.

Equanimity personified

I recently spent time with a friend who has cancer. This beautiful human being is the epitome of hope and clarity.

There was no hiding that my friend had been crushed by his initial diagnosis, and he admits he’s still on one crazy rollercoaster ride. But at the same time that he deals with the shock of having cancer, he seems also to have extracted the extremes of his emotions and focused them on the beauty of life.

My friend has taken hold of the clarity, strength, purpose, and love that were brought to him through this crisis. He’s then redirected these feelings, and in doing so become far more conscious of the joy of human goodness, the overwhelming comfort of love, the breathtaking beauty of this world.

Turning shock into equanimity

As a thunder storm gives way to clear skies, so too can illness bring peace and equanimity.

Receiving a medical diagnosis can inadvertently help us to carve away some of the more banal aspects of daily life. It can help us identify what’s most important to us. It can even give us the mental space to focus more intently on the beauty of our existence.


Where is our plural of ‘you’?

In a recent conversation with a German friend, she set me thinking when she asked: ‘And what are yous doing for Christmas?’.

Of course! What initially sounded like a grammatical slur ended up being an excellent illustration of why English may not be the perfect language.

When a Dutch person wants to address a group of people, they’ll say jullie; the French vous; Germans ihr. But what option did my friend have other than to add an s to you to convey her meaning?

Verbal shortcuts

People love making things as easy and fast for themselves as possible. We like to know the fastest way to walk to work. We buy ready-made sushi rather than spend the time making it ourselves. In terms of our thought processes, we often use mental shortcuts to ease the burden of decision-making.

It appears we’re no different when it comes to speaking. So for that dastardly old plural of you, many of us do whatever we can to avoid having to add on an all to make ourselves understood.

Savvy solutions

 Once my friend had inadvertently helped me recognise this ‘problem’, I realised I’d long been witnessing people’s makeshift solutions to it. So we’ve already identified yous, but I’ve also often heard people borrow the American ya’ll. And you guys or even yous guys pops up every now and then too. And then there’s my Dad’s old favourite: yous ones.

Some of these solutions are not even shorter than you all, and they’re often spoken in jest. But I think its just fine to poke fun at the idiosyncrasies of the English language.

Visit this site to see a few solutions that the Americans have come up with: