According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease. So, when is a disease considered a chronic condition?
Well, the CDC defines chronic disease as a condition that lasts one year or longer. Thus, causing a need for ongoing medical attention. And also limiting one’s daily activities or both.
In fact, the main causes of disability and death in America are diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They are also the leading drivers of the nation’s health care costs which is an estimated 3.3 trillion dollars.
Now, the CDC reports that the above-mentioned chronic diseases are caused by poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke, excessive use of alcohol and/or all the above.
For some people, changing the preceding behaviors could help ease those chronic diseases. Now, on the other hand, there are chronic conditions that do not yet have a cure. Such as,
- Kidney Disease
- Alzheimer Disease (AD) and Dementia
- Crohn’s Disease
- Parkinson Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT)
- Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
- Mood Disorder (Bipolar, Cyclothymic, and Depression)
- Muscular Dystrophy (MD)
Some of the above-mentioned conditions you may very well recognize. Whereas, there are others you may not be as familiar with. Still, there are people who suffer daily with one or more chronic sicknesses.
How people deal with chronic disease
This week we have our resident counselor, Ms. Melinda Fields sitting in with us. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Human Services and Counseling. She shares some clinical insights. As well as little bit of her own personal journey of living through a diagnosis.
Melinda shares how chronic disease can often take its toll on a person’s emotions. Such as when one is first diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease. She says most people go through some type of grief process.
For one thing, when looking from the traditional science side of chronic diagnoses, both Western and Eastern medicines only manage the disease.
So, when looking at it from a scientific viewpoint, it is in rare cases that an incurable disease is cured. For that reason alone, some people have mixed emotions.
The five stages of grief
Since grief is very common, Melinda shares that there are five stages of grief. Therefore, according to the Kübler-Ross Method, when a person experiences a loss of sorts, he/she will experience one or more of the grief stages. Because the impact of chronic illness is very much like a loss depending upon the disease.
In other words, some people have difficulty with daily activities due to constant pain, severe fatigue and loss of functionality in different areas of their bodies. In the article, Grief in chronic illness: assessment and management, the normal response to losing physical functions is grief.
Naturally, a physical restriction is heart-breaking for someone who is very active. Hence, the start of the grief process.
First is denial, one doesn’t want to admit that there’s an issue. Second is anger, the person then gets mad with everybody. For instance, he/she may ponder the following questions, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ‘Do I need to go to a specialist?’ ‘What specialist do I need to see?’ ‘Do I need to pray?’ ‘Do I need to pray more?’ and ‘Do I need to have more faith?’
Some people get angry with God wanting to know where He is and why He let it happen. Depending on the state of mind of the person, some people who believe in God, turn away from Him. Whereas others turn to God for the first time because they feel like they’ve tried everything else.
The third is bargaining or negotiating with God. For example, some make promises to do good from now on. And those who have never been to church, then promise to start going to church if He would change their situation.
Fourth is depression. The person may become overwhelmed with hopelessness. Now, this type of depression is not clinical depression, which is a form of mental illness. Grief depression is a feeling of not knowing what to do when dealing with the loss. That brings us to the fifth stage which is acceptance.
Melinda says that is when one makes the decision to find out as much information as he/she can. Hosea 4:6 New King James Version (NKJV), “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” When fighting a sickness, knowledge brings a sense of power and hope.
Living through a diagnosis with a positive outlook
The New York Times published an article titled, A Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health by Jane E. Brody. The article lists several studies that have shown the brain indeed does influence the whole body. And what happens in it. So, it does matter how we choose to look at our circumstances.
Brody wrote, “When facing a health crisis, actively cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression.” We see this in Proverbs 23:7 New King James Version (NKJV), “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
Melinda says that she too has dealt with chronic conditions throughout her life. She admits that even as a counselor she’s had days when the symptoms of physical illness weighed her down. But even in those times, she chooses to have a positive outlook. She says her faith in Jesus is what gets her through those tough times.
I as well understand what it is like to face daily symptoms of chronic illness. I can admit that I experienced each stage of grief. But I made a decision—I choose to approach each day with a positive attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had those moments when I was crying and then, I collected myself.
I, like Melinda, have only been able to get through tough times because of my faith in Jesus.
She and I both believe The Word of God. 1 Peter 2:24 New Living Translation (NLT) “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed,” And Proverbs 18:21 The Passion Translation (TPT) “Your words are so powerful that they will kill or give life…”
The woman with the issue of blood
An example of a person suffering from a chronic illness is written in Mark 5:25-34 The Passion Translation (TPT). You see, there was a woman who had a bleeding disorder and for 12 years she suffered. Now to put this in perspective—it was like a 12 yearlong menstrual cycle. And because of it, people shunned and declared her unclean.
If you are a female, you would likely agree that a once-a-month menstrual cycle is enough. But 12 years though—oh my goodness—no thank you—I don’t want any parts of that. According to scripture, this woman went to several physicians for help.
Unfortunately, instead of helping her, they made her worse. So, not only did she get worse but she spent all she had seeking a cure for her condition. It is fair to say, she was desperate for a solution much like so many people today. Especially, those who are suffering through incurable diseases.
Healing through Jesus Christ
In the case of the woman mentioned before, she was so desperate that even though she was unclean—she headed to town. Even after 12 long years of continuous bleeding and all her money spent on doctors, she held on to a sliver of hope.
You see, she’d heard about Jesus and the miracles that were happening around Him. She made up in her mind that if she could just touch His clothes, she believed she too would receive a miracle. So, she made her way through the crowd. She knew He carried healing power that would change her life.
Simply put, this woman believed she had nothing to lose but everything to gain. So, she came up behind pressing through the multitude of people. Finally, she got close enough to touch the hem of His garment [Jesus’ prayer shawl]. “Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.”
Faith in Jesus Christ will manifest healing
The woman had faith that if she could just touch His clothes, she would be made well. But it was her faith in Jesus that withdrew the healing power. Jesus felt healing power leave HIM. Mark 5:30 New King James Version (NKJV), “And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My clothes?'”
Again, people were crowded around Jesus. Yet He knew the moment she touched Him. Therefore, when He asked His disciples the previous question, it puzzled them. Because everyone was touching Him. As a Christian, what He did next blessed me to my soul. Jesus looked around and He saw her.
In a multitude of people, He saw her. Oh-my-goodness, I feel a shout coming on [church folks know what I’m talking about–good God] yep, I digressed.
Back to the text, now when the woman realized Jesus saw her, she was afraid. Because she realized He knew what happened to her. She fell down before Him and told Him everything she’d been through. In Mark 5:34 Jesus says the following to her, “And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
Jesus validates the importance of faith and the part it plays in healing. This is why it is so important to keep hope and a positive outlook. That means you have faith like the woman I mentioned earlier. Such as faith and hope for a miracle in scientific advances. It can happen–just think, HIV/AIDS was once a death sentence.
The Spread Hope Challenge for episode 8 comes from a song written by Melissa Helser of Bethel Music. At a young age, doctors diagnosed her with a chronic illness. The first line of the song says, “I am strong and full of life.” Now the challenge is, get up each morning and say to yourself, I am strong and full of life. That is speaking strength to your body and to your spirit.
Melissa Helser’s testimony and the video Catch the Wind
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Music by Joakim Karud