I’ve been writing about chronic illness for the past three years. Recently I’ve had some new experiences and insights, and I have re-thought this blog’s focus.

In the words of my hepatologist, I “crashed and burned” on March 12 with an infection of my bile ducts, cholangitis. I went from feeling physically, mentally, emotionally great to a puddle of chills and high fever in about three hours. My period of feeling healthy and nearly normal had lasted more than two years. And that is the nature of the illness, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), that I have – you cruise along in high for a long time and one day you simply crash and burn. So much for my grand delusions of PSC just sliding away into nothingness. It was in my face again.

This time, though, I had several serious complications and spent, instead of a usual four or five days, two weeks in the hospital – most of it in ICU. I couldn’t do anything more than pant, not breathe, for ten days. The most scared and the sickest I’ve ever been.

This is an experience that makes anyone sit up and do some reviews of how they live, their attitudes towards life, and how to cope with their disease.

Here’s what I came up with. I have to live in the moment and love every moment of enjoyment and love and peace I can muster. It is now my job. It is my commitment to me, to how I spend my time, to how I treat all my relationships. The “me” includes spirit, mind, body – in that order. Happiness and joy in everything I think, breathe, feel are my goals.

How do others with chronic illness cope? I first got sick nine years ago. Coping has gotten easier and more difficult. Easier because I’ve developed skills for living more intentionally in each moment. More difficult because the challenges have increased in severity. It is much the same for others with chronic illness.

What about friends, relatives and caregivers, including medical professionals, of people with chronic illness? How are they affected, and what can they do for themselves? I’ll be writing more about their experiences and some advice I would offer after my longtime observations.

Today, now, I am here. I am very slowly recuperating. I’m not used to having lungs being thrown in the mix and was advised that they recover slowly. I am learning new meanings for “slowly.” And as a dedicated impatient patient, it irritates the hell out of me. But I’m using some new skills recently learned to chill out and just be.

I’ll be back next week, and the week after that, and so on. I have much I want to share.

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