April 2011 – The winter is over. After one and a half years with difficulties to walk I managed to stand on my cross-country skis again.
I shared a hospital room with many patients over the years. Some of them repeatedly. Their age ranged between 18 and 85. Mostly women. Occasionally men. One of my fellow patients, an 18-year old girl, wished to travel the world. Other girl, a 28-years old mother of a 2-years old daughter wished to stay alive long enough for her daughter to remember her. The older patients simply wanted to stay alive. I was in my late 30-ties. What did I wish?
I was imagining my life without the disease. That was my motivation when going through the first surgery. I knew that the surgery would leave me with number of physical handicaps. But I was looking forward to a reasonably “normal” life. The vision helped me in the beginning.
Everything changed when my doctors told me that the chances to become completely healthy were small and that the surgeries and treatments became about staying alive. I could no longer wait for the disease to end.
I started to make a distinction between living and staying alive. Staying alive was not enough. I wanted to have a life.
My life from then on could be compared to a marathon run without a finish line. Surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments required almost all my energy. Survival required accumulating and saving up strength when possible, during the periods without treatments and surgeries.
It was no longer about toughening it out. I needed to find the optimal way forward, justifying the risks along the way, not risking unnecessarily.
To be able to continue with my fight day after day I started to use my experiences from the times when I was an active athlete. The key elements which I focused on became:
- Strength and endurance training
- Balanced diet
- Getting sufficient amount of rest
- Systematic preparation for every surgery or other treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy
- Planning for the recovery after a surgery or other treatment
- Planning meetings with friends, family gatherings, and other social events
Staying motivated can be difficult at times. During the last two years I often struggled with motivation. The structured approach helped me to maintain focus and, at the same time, I had something to lean on during times of insecurity.
I do not have the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life. Everyone has his or hers own way to continue with the fight. This is mine.
Please, share your ideas on the topic of motivation.