Dealing with Chronic Illness

Good morning Rabbi Lapin and Susan,

I had my thyroid removed three years ago because of an enlarged nodule and cancer within a lymph node. My prognosis, as far as cancer, looks good. If you have thyroid disease like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or your thyroid removed, like me, it can pose a challenge to get things working properly. it can be trial and error to find the right dosage. The last 18 months have not been good, and I am left feeling frustrated and a bit depressed because I wonder if I will ever feel like myself again. Also, I am very aware of how this is affecting those around me because I have not been in a good place.

I think about the 5 F’s, and because of your teaching, I know that my health is impacting the other four areas negatively. I will give you an example. My father passed away this past summer at the age of 92. My mother, who is also 92, is still alive and well. However, she does have some failing health and so in December we (my brother and I) moved her into assisted living. She was not eager to go, to say the least. Unfortunately, though, between my father’s passing, trying to get my mother situated and my health and not feeling well, I was not always very graceful or patient with my mom. I know I am supposed to be a Happy Warrior, but I am anything but that right now; my physical body does not seem to want to cooperate. So, my question is, what does AJW say about our physical body and how to live with a disease, chronic illness, etc.? I am really interested in knowing. Would God say, “Just deal with it and be happy?”

By the way, we are looking for a new doctor and are praying and hoping that they can get me adjusted correctly. I hope this all makes sense and I look forward to your answer…

Sincerely,
G.

Dear G.

Most importantly, we are delighted that cancer does not seem to be a concern anymore. We also join your prayers that God grants your doctors the wisdom to find a medication and treatment regimen that restores you and keeps you healthy and feeling well.

Have you ever seen someone messing up really badly but remaining completely oblivious to the fact that they are doing so? I (Susan) once cringed at hearing a teacher leading a class trip to the local science center who was not only using terrible grammar but, even worse, speaking rudely to her students. Yet, while I was suffering, she was perfectly comfortable.

When we human beings aim to improve, very often the first thing that happens is that we are tempted to become depressed at noticing our many shortcomings. We seem worse off than we were when we weren’t paying attention. We see this phenomenon when our house is a wreck as the first step of a redecorating project or when we are in pain after the dentist begins working on our teeth. Instead of improvement, we experience an illusion of going backwards!

This sounds like it may be happening to you. Rather than excusing your short-temper with the excuse, “Well, I’m not feeling well,” you are holding yourself to a higher standard. Meanwhile, you have been facing not only ill health but also the emotional and physical stresses that accompany parents getting older and the loss of your father. You are dealing with a tremendous amount.

Rather than God saying, “Just deal with it and be happy,” we would phrase it as, “My beloved daughter. You have many burdens right now. Don’t let aiming for perfection become an excuse for sadness or giving up. Each time you hold back a sharp word or put a smile on your face, I rejoice in your heroism. Love yourself as I love you.”

Blessings,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin


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