Through blogs and comments, patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

Friends, Fatigue and the Slow Slog Back

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I write about what it takes for us -- whether we are sick or well -- to find and make good use of health care today.  At the end of September I was hospitalized for surgery to remove a tumor in my stomach. Below is one in a series of five observations about my experiences since then.

I have much experience with serious illness. And so I am a connoisseur of fatigue: the sleepless edginess of post-radiation fatigue; the heavy constancy of cardiac fatigue; the blur and blues of chemotherapy-related fatigue.

I am learning again about post-surgical fatigue, which this time is characterized by short bursts of energy randomly emerging from an otherwise constant whacked-upside-the-head-with-a-golf-club sleeping/waking fog.

Regardless of the flavor, it is the force of fatigue that exacerbates the discomforts and symptoms of an illness. It is fatigue that makes each sip of water an action to be carefully planned, each trip to the refrigerator an accomplishment. It is fatigue that exhausts my hands holding a book and my mind when reading more than a few sentences. It is fatigue that shrinks my world to the size of my living room, leaching the meaning from family news, work developments and the impending election.

Fatigue diminishes me: I consist only of this disease, this body.

Into this gray desolation drop brief messages of support, of encouragement, of good wishes. These words are not sent to the thin figure lying on the couch staring at the sky. Rather, they are addressed to a friend, acquaintance, colleague, daughter, or sister ' a person who stands up straight, is passionately engaged in her life and has a lot of work to do.

These messages remind me of the parts of myself that are eclipsed by my illness. And they reassure me that I will be able to find those parts again.

I am grateful for each one.

More Blog Posts by Jessie Gruman

author bio

Jessie C. Gruman, PhD, was founder and president of the Center for Advancing Health from 1992 until her death in July 2014. Her experiences as a patient — having been diagnosed with five life-threatening illnesses — informed her perspective as an author, advocate and lead contributor to the Prepared Patient Blog. Her book, AfterShock, helps patients and caregivers navigate their way through the health care system following a serious or life-threatening diagnosis. The free app, AfterShock: Facing a Serious Diagnosis, offers a pocket guide based on the book. | More about Jessie Gruman


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David says
November 6, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Jessie - I have alwayes been amazed at your inner strenght and energy. I was in Madison this past July and took Dorris for a drive in the Arboreetum - passing the prarie with it's 10' tall tall grasses I though of you and me there in the winter so many years ago exploring life and the maze of that magical place. Great memories for me - I hope you too - best to you and your family. David