MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “illness”

The most important medicine

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2018/12/30/books/review/30Sutherland/30Sutherland-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&disable=upscale

They told him he would be foolish to abandon everything he had spent his whole life creating. He had a successful legal office and had a good reputation among his peers.

But when his wife got sick, he didn’t consider it at all. For him it was obvious that his place was by her side. Always and at all costs. It was what they had vowed to each other so many years ago.

He didn’t see it as making sacrifices. He saw it as standing by and supporting the person he loved.

He didn’t care that he spent his whole life being next to her, even when she stopped remembering him. He continued his efforts to remind her of his love for her every day and refused to stop trying or to not be there, for her. So that she would feel safe and cared for.

He believed with all his heart that when you love someone you dedicate to them a part of your life, your time and your interest.

For him being with the person he loved and shared his life with was much more important that work, money and material goods.

Love is sometimes the most important medicine.

Stronger than you

https://daabrams.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/img_8403.jpgEvery person has a story to tell. And unless you know what that story is, you really are in no position to judge, criticise, or make fun of them. No matter how light-heartedly it may be. Because you surely don’t know what the person hides behind the smile they constantly wear, or the glimmer that is so apparent in their eyes. You can’t tell if what they are laughing at may be burning them down inside.

If you take a moment and observe the world around you, the people with whom you are surrounded by each and every day, you’d be amazed at the vastness of different tales that exist. Personal tales of courage, of strength, of survival. People who have fought diseases and won, others who are fighting them every day. These latter ones are perhaps the boldest, because it is harsh knowing that what you have cannot be cured. At least not yet.

That is what the theme of today (25 May 2016) is: #WorldMSDay. It is about raising awareness about an illness that creeps slyly into people’s lives and sticks with them, no matter how insistently they try to shake it off. Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, one that has been described as the disease of 1000 faces, because it affects everyone differently. People are forced to live with it and go along their lives, working, partying, exercising, like everyone else. Just not. Because they have to fight harder. They also have to face the uninvited and unintended (sudden) onsets of fatigue, of somewhat intense mood swings, of becoming more introvert at times. Now, if you’re a woman, once a month you face similar reactions in a more insane manner. But it’s not the same. And it is certainly not something that is easy for others to understand. Nonetheless, like this year’s theme (#StrongerthanMS) demonstrates, people diagnosed with MS can also be productive members of society, just like everyone else – athletes, politicians, actors, educators, professionals, musicians, anything – and here is a list of celebrities diagnosed with MS to prove it.

You don’t really fully comprehend any of this until it becomes part of your life too. A few years ago, I met a person giving his own battle daily. And he is one of the strongest people I know. Because it takes courage to make your private story public. To let people in to your thoughts and make them aware of the challenges you face. But like C.S. Lewis said, “hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny”. Because sometimes, things happen so we live a better and fuller life. And people who realise the futility of most things we anguish about daily, are the ones who know best how to appreciate the small things, the simple moments that make life great.

It is not the people who run after the spotlight who deserve it, it is the ones who fight alone in the shadows, for they are the ones who offer inspiration.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Pensive

The Origins of Health

1_imgsize.aspThere is nothing better in life than good health,” wrote the poet Menander (4th century BC) and rhetorician Lucian (2nd century AD) agreed that “there is no benefit in possessing every good if health is absent”. Ever since the dawn of its existence, humanity has strived to achieve and maintain good health, while seeking to understand the causes of illnesses and searching for solutions to treat them. This remains one of mankind’s primary concerns – just consider the most common drinking toast (“to good health”). In an exquisite archaeological exhibition entitled HYGIEIA: Health, Illness and Treatment from Homer to Galen, The Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece, offers an unrivalled journey through the evolution of medical practices from 1200 BC to the 3rd century AD, with the aid of 282 artefacts from 41 museums in 7 European countries. But it is not just the artefacts that matter here, it is the knowledge residing behind them.

2_AsklipiosIn his epics, Homer refers to Asklepios as a mortal King of Trikke in Thessaly and a peerless physician. However, according to ancient myth, Asklepios was the son of god Apollo. He is later referred to as a demi-god, one who possessed the unique ability to grant health. From the 5th century BC onwards, his cult as the foremost healing god spread rapidly and endured even past the advent of Christianity to approximately 500 BC. Asklepios was that tall, mature, bearded man often figured clad in a long robe, leaning on a snake-entwined staff. A snake is a “chthonic” element, it crawls on the ground and is well aware of the herbs and nutrients the earth breeds; thus, also capable of distinguishing between the good and bad – in fact, in Greek the word for medicine (φάρμακο) is just an intonation away from the word for poison (φαρμάκι). The snake, however, is also the symbol of renewal because of its ability to shed its skin. It therefore became the sacred animal of the healing god and today is the international symbol of medical doctors.

Such symbolism is abundant: in the Ancient era, the trademark for physicians was an ancient medical cupping vessel, named “Sikya” because of its resemblance to the tubular fruits of the sikya plant. Trefoil juglets that stored opium resembled inverted poppy capsules (the ones that when slit leak out opium-bearing latex), while they also featured a snake on their handle, cautioning that opium may be used in small doses as an anaesthetic and for soothing pain, but in larger doses can cause damage due to its hallucinatory effect.

4_AsklepieioIn the ancient healing sanctuaries dedicated to the healing god and thus known as Asklipieia, patients seeking divine cure would be bathed and aromatized (a purgatory ritual to ensure good health and ethical purity). They would then sleep in the sanctuary (incubation), experiencing a divinely-inspired dream, where Asklepios would appear and offer advice. In the morning this would be interpreted by the sanctuary’s priests and the illness would be physically treated.5_ Hygieia

The incubation process was inspired by another symbol: one that depicts Sleep – the brother of Death – as a winged child at the feet of Hygieia found at the very entrance of this exhibition. Hygieia (Health) is one of the daughters of Asklepios and the goddess of good health. It is from her name that the name (and concept) of “hygiene” arises. Asklepios’ entire family was related to the health-treatment process: his wife Epione was the comforter of pain; his two sons Machaon and Podaleirios took care of injured Achaeans in the Trojan War; while there were also the daughters Acesó (goddess of the healing process); Iasó (goddess of healing); Panacea (the all-healing goddess); and a younger son Telesphóros (he who brings fulfillment and protected coalescing patients).

This “theurgic medicine” was so widespread because prevalent belief had it that the gods inflicted illnesses upon humans as a punishment for impious acts. 6_Anathima STATUE-570And since the cure of every illness was similarly godsent, people tried to appease the gods with prayers, magnificent sacrifices, and purifications. These also included votive offerings either before or after treatment, which took the form of objects (or ailing body parts) as a supplication to the gods. Centuries would pass before the divine provenance of disease was challenged and treatment dissociated from divine intervention. This occurred with the teachings of the Pre-Socratic philosophers (6th c. BC), which served as the foundation for rational scientific medicine. However, votive offerings still remain an integral part of Christian belief, especially in Greek Orthodox Churches.

Hippocrates (460 BC – 370 BC), today considered as the Father of Scientific Medicine, recorded about 60 ancient treatises in what is known as the Hippocratic Corpus. The medicinal use of healing herbs still used today, originated from thousands of years ago. For example, laurel as an antiseptic, emollient and cathartic; Crocus (or saffron) used for eye inflammation; Lykion (or Goji Berry) extremely well-known for its healing properties; Mandrake used as anaesthetic in surgeries (today is the emblem of the Hellenic Society of Anaesthesiology); and Mastic used, among others, to clean teeth and as a regenerative factor for a radiant complexion.7_ Iasis 1

Hippocratic physicians also emphasized the importance of diet in maintaining health as well as in treating disease. In antiquity, the word diet was not limited strictly to food, as it is nowadays; it expressed a broader concept, which also encompassed – and always in moderation – drink, physical exercise, baths, massages, sleep, sexuality, and a person’s habits and way of life in general.

According to Hippocrates, the human body encompasses four fluids or humours (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile). The balanced proportion of all four fluids, known as Eukrasia (good mix), is a main characteristic of good health, while the disruption of this balance (Dyskrasia) leads to the onset of various diseases.

Galen (129-216 AD), a prolific Physician from Pergamon whose theories dominated and influenced Western medicine up to the 17thcentury, tried to explain human behavior according to the fluid that prevailed in each human being. So, for example, a Sanguine person, in whom blood prevails, is sociable; a Phlegmatic person, in whom phlegm prevails, is relaxed and quiet; a Choleric person, in whom yellow bile prevails, is tense and aggressive; and a Melancholic person, in whom black bile (melaina cholé in Greek) prevails, is moody and introverted.

9_760374_Iasis_Installation_3In the ancient era, physicians were seen as the “healers of evil” and were greatly respected in society. They enjoyed an elevated status because of their specific skills. They were considered craftsmen, as well as “demiourgoi”, i.e. workers who labored for deme, the public good. Physicians were considered servants of mankind in general and travelled from place to place to practice their craft and offer their services to community. This is also what today’s doctors vow to do through their Hippocratic Oath. To continue practicing medicine, whose origins, as is evident, stem from centuries ago. And despite the fact that people – in their majority – no longer believe diseases are godsent punishes for irreverent human actions – deep down we all hope that someone can find a way to reverse them, to treat even the most incurable ones, and soothe the suffering for all.

 

* The exhibition “HYGIEIA. Health, Illness, Treatment from Homer to Galen” runs from 19/11/2014 until 31/5/2015 and a short video can be found here.

The revenge of the giant Aloe

Aloe VeraMrs Cliffson loved tending to her garden. Ever since she remained alone in her cozy, stone-built house in the metropolitan suburbs, she decided she would reinvent her garden. At least it would keep her busy and take her mind off being alone.

She began by bringing in all kinds of plants, from flowers to foliage to creepers. She bought all types and all sorts of varieties in order to create what she imagined would be the ideal garden to spend hours admiring. She even bought a small Aloe vera plant. One that would cure every rash or nasty cut she would ever have.

So she got to work.

She got out her spade, trowel and pitchforks and instantly created freshly sowed flower beds, as she also replanted all the plants she had bought from the farmers’ market.

Mrs Cliffson was excited.

She spent her days caring for her rose bushes, her geraniums, her basil and mint and even her cabbages. She had a little section cut off for edible products – such as cabbages, cherry tomatoes, and a series of aromatic plants. All around the garden the flower pots slowly bloomed, radiating their rainbow-coloured glow and embracing Mrs Cliffson’s soul. She was not alone anymore. She cared for something and that paid back. All her plants, in one way or another, returned the love and affection she devoted to them.

But her prize possession – her pride and glory – was the Aloe plant.

That little pot of the shy yet sturdy Aloe vera had within months grown into a huge plant that took up almost an entire corner of the back yard. But no matter its fierce appearance, that Aloe plant was what rescued her.

A few years after the birth of Mrs Cliffson’s garden, she had been diagnosed with a rare dermatological disease. One that would cause strange scars to appear on her skin, appearing as though it was slowly being scraped off. It was a condition that baffled even the most supreme of doctors. She had gone on all sorts of treatment and medication but nothing seemed to work. No-one knew what else to advise. The doctors had almost entirely given up; all they could prescribe now was hope.

Mrs Cliffson was sitting in her garden one day, resting in the wooden swing she had placed in between her flower beds. Her garden had become her refuge, her consolation. And that is when she saw it. The Aloe plant had grown so much that it had almost reached the swing. It seemed as if it was trying to reach out to her. As though it was offering a helping hand. And that is when the thought struck her mind. She immediately got up and cut off a piece one of the Aloe‘s leaves. The juice that ran out onto her hand caused a soothing sensation. Mrs Cliffson rubbed it across her scars. The consequence was almost immediate.

The next day, Mrs Cliffson woke up believing the days and months of running to the doctors was a distant nightmare. She stared at her hands in amazement. The scars were gone, leaving no sign that they had ever existed. She ran out to the garden. The cut-off Aloe leaf had grown back and the plant was complete.

Mrs Cliffson had found her cure. All it took was a little tender, love and care for something that seemingly could not repay you. It is surprising what those small “unimportant” things do for us. Even when you least expect it.

The truth you’ll never know

icebergIt’s hard to be perfect. No matter if it is just keeping up the appearance of being faultless.

Joseph knew it well. All his life he was trying to prove himself to others – even to his family and friends. That he was different. That he wasn’t like the rest of the guys out there. He had something special boiling up inside him and was striving to find a way to let it out. All amidst friendly mockery and criticism that he took on like a clown – with a smile on the outside and a frown inside.

But he never told anyone about this. Not even Alicia. He just wanted her to be happy. He was happy as long as she was. And that was all that mattered.

At least that was how he felt. Most of the time.

They were both trying to get ahead in their careers. Alicia had motivated him to reach higher. But it seemed that no matter what they did, no matter how many applications they sent, no matter how much networking they did, nothing seemed to work. There was no window opening up. Not even a mouse-hole.

And at work it all seemed to pile up. He was getting more and more jobs assigned to him, which of course he could do given his extraordinary skills, but under normal circumstances it would take another two people to share the tasks. Yet no matter how efficiently and accurately he responded to his obligations, there always seemed to be someone coming back and asking for more.

Alicia was at her limits too, as she was facing a similar situation at work and was being suffocated under never-ending workloads that seemed to proliferate instead of decrease.

Joseph had to listen to her complain, while she tried to console him when his turn came to externalize his agitation.

But one day, Joseph felt something was wrong. He woke up with a numbness in his feet and stumbled on the way to the bathroom. Something that had never happened before. He didn’t tell Alicia. There was no need to make her worry.

The doctor he immediately saw told him that unfortunately they detected a genetic mutation that caused an unforeseen illness to develop. Something that would require extensive, prolonged and continuous treatment.

Joseph felt the ground from under his feet disappear. He could feel the blood flushing out of his brain and rushing to his heart, which was beating like a drum. Cold sweat trickled down his spine, as he attempted to remain conscious. He could hear all his dreams shatter right in front of him. Right at that moment. Because everything would be different now.

At work, it was just another tedious day with demands piling up and everyone nagging about each other. It was bad enough he had his company to worry about, Alicia wanted to lash out on someone about her own ordeal.

And that was the moment he cracked. The moment when he felt it was better to behave like a jackass and get her to move away from him than make her suffer with him this unexpected future. It was easier to be the guy she hated. The person who did not deserve her. To make her see that she deserved better. It was better to break his own heart into a thousand pieces than force her to change her own dreams for his sake. For a future that no-one knew what it would bring and how.

Alicia ran away from him, with the image of a prince turning into a beast in her head.

And Joseph, he closed up inside his shell, hoping that one day she would understand – that he loved her so much, he let her go.

Post Navigation