THE ANATOMY OF AN ILLNESS

February 21, 2021

The title of this post is the title of a book I bought and read in June of 2004. The book’s copyright date was 1979. So it had been out for about twenty-five years when I bought it. I bought it as a part of the 29th printing. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for a long time after the initial publication. The author was Norman Cousins.

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. One of the things I decided to sacrifice for Lent was to give up whatever it takes to get in an additional hour of Bible study and prayer. That also meant, in that extra hour, I could study other things conducive to my spiritual development.

So, I found in my library the above-mentioned book and decided to read it again. It was a real eye-opener compared to the first time I read it about twenty-two years ago. At my first reading, I was healthy as could be except for being a little overweight. Therefore, my first reading was not to find out how to get healthier at all.

Whoever told me about the book, said that the author had developed a debilitating disease and was told by several doctors that there was no known cure for his problem. He soon became bed-fast but did not believe he was ready to die. He would not accept the doctor’s prognosis. He had the WILL to live and began researching on his own to see whether there was at least some way he could live longer and enjoy a good quality of life until his demise.

In his research, he discovered that laughter was a cure for many problems. So he started watching funny movies, read funny literature – anything that would produce laughter, especially the famous belly laughter. It worked for him. He found out that laughter would produce endorphins in his body that was very similar to morphine. After watching something funny, he was able to sleep at least two hours without waking up in pain. He kept the routine up for quite a while and started seeing his sleep become longer and longer without waking up in pain. This was not the only thing that eventually brought about his complete recovery, but it was why I bought the book.

In addition to being a pastor, I also started performing as a humorist beginning in 1976. It’s a long story as to how that began so I won’t get into that except to say it was by accident.

I told everyone that my humorist gigs were an extension of my ministry. I believed then as today that laughter is therapeutic. So after hearing about Cousin’s book, I bought it to see what all he discover laughter to accomplish for a person’s health. The book ,to me, was proof that what I had always believed was true and verifiable through tests, etc., that Cousins had done. Now I could tell everyone that laughter was a proven remedy to help relieve many problems people have with their health.

On my second reading of the book, which I completed last Thursday and Friday, I discovered several things I had completely missed on my first reading. These things were very important to me to answer the questions as to why I started having so many health problems after I had a complete hip replacement five and a half years ago. One of the first problems I started having was that immediately after the surgery I had developed a severe staph infection. I was hospitalized for 58 days to get rid of the staph. I later found out from one of the doctors who worked on overcoming the staph that many of the team working on my staph infection thought that I would succumb to the disease.  This one doctor, my infectious disease control doctor, is still treating me today to completely get rid of the staph ,which lingered on until about four months ago when two different doctors told me that recent tests showed the infection was finally gone.

That was great news to me. I was happy just to know that I had lived through this ordeal and now was disease-free from staph.

In my second reading of Cousin’s book, he explains what all staph infections can cause, even after one is so-called cured of the disease. There were many problems which so far no doctor could tell me the answer as to why I am cold all the time after my hip surgery. Cousins learned that staying cold was one of the side effects of having a bad staph infection.  Other problems were/are that one can come down with severe arthritis problems, especially rheumatoid arthritis, which I was diagnosed as having two years ago. And in some cases, the problem can affect one’s use of his hands and fingers. I have consistently had that problem and last year, just before Christmas, I chose to have surgery on both hands to cure come of the problem and the pain that goes with it. I had gotten to the point I could hardly type on my keyboard.

The surgery helped a lot, but was not a complete cure to the problem. I am better, but will just have to learn how to cope with the problem for the rest of my life.

Another problem associated with a severe staph infection is that one tends to gain a lot of weight. I had had a weight problem, though, long before developing the staph infection.  Two years ago I was diagnosed with having a severe gout problem. It was so bad that the doctor told me I would be dead within a year if I did not get immediate treatment. Then he told me that the medicines used in the treatment would NOT work unless I lost my excess weight. I started a diet immediately, and within one year I lost 100 pounds. My weight went down from 275 pounds to my present 175 pounds, what I weighed when I got married 55years ago. I was proud of my accomplishment of losing the excess weight and now my gout problem is under control.

However, still today I gain weight so easily even while continuing my diet and lifestyle changes. It is a constant battle every day to fight against weight gain.  Thank God, with His help, I can keep my weight at around 175 pounds.

Cousin’s book goes further about other problems associated with having had a bad staph infection. I have many of those problems, too.

What I am getting at with what you may deem as a book report ,is that we can and must continue pursuing whatever means necessary to keep our health as good as possible. I have said and written many times that our health is likened to a three-legged stool. Our health is affecting us physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Like the three-legged stool I mentioned, if one part of our health fails it impacts the other two also. Furthermore, I have written in past blog posts that we must be our own best advocates when it comes to matters concerning our health.  That is EXACTLY what Norman Cousins did on his way to a complete recovery over what he was told was a fatal problem with no cure.

God bless you,
Spencer and Sandra Plumley

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