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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Comments

  1. Enjoyed this! I too have dealt with the gout, staph and repeated infections of cellulitis in my lower legs and feet. I have tried everyday since recovering from the medically induced coma after 12 days and finding I was paralyzed from my neck down to maintain my sense of humor! It is the best medicine, no doubt about that. Gary and I felt the same about it. Gary was as sick as a person could be but he kept his joy till the day he was removed from the respirator after his second liver transplant. He had such an inner joy and peace ( only God can give it to you) that when we were at Baylor in Dallas he led more people to Jesus than he had in our entire ministry. He had 42 hospital admissions during his almost 26 months after his diagnosis of end stage liver disease.
    During my health crisis I had a neurologist tell me “you will love in a nursing home, be fed and disperse for the rest of your life. You are 65 years old. Get used to it! My doctor who is still my physician and close personal friend came around after the neurologist made his decree and left the ICU got my hand and asked “are you OK Mrs. Lillian?” I looked at Garth ( my doctor) and answered him saying the man’s a fool. He doesn’t know me. I’m just a patient he’s never even spoken to till now. He doesn’t know the man who raised me and how we watched Herman Byrd, a man shot and hit 16 times by machine gun fire on Tinian Island in WWII never give up. Worked hard all his days making his family a pretty decent living with no right arm and no right lung. I told Garry to look out I would be an overcome of this that Adam’s son had caused. Not God. I determined that day I would and I could and I would do it with my joy and my laughter. I spent nearly a year in the rehab hospital but I am proud and happy to my Almighty God that he brought me out. Some of the hardest work I’ve ever done was to learn how to make this older and FAT body of mine to come back into working again. I was a fun patient for all who worked with me. The CNA’s, the nurses, therapists even the housekeepers loved to be around me because I was always full of joy! One of my friends came 40 miles every week to see me. Robbie was amazed that the folks who worked there would come see me for just 5 minutes or so. They told her they needed a little shot of Mrs. Lillian to finish out the next task of patient. I still have visits, texts and phone calls from staff people who worked there.
    I still get calls from one nurse who helped with my Gary’s care in Dallas. I’m am totally convinced it was the joy of the Lord that sustained us both through out our health issues. For the past 6 months I’ve dealt with some bad infections in both legs. I’ve had 3 visits a week from R.N.s to my home as well as my usual home health CAN but I still can laugh and tell funny stories. I have finally overcome to the point of no longer needing the in home nurse visits! Glory and all praise to God!

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