What You Can’t Buy

I’m writing this post in response to a comment by reader Cheryl. I started it as a comment but I want to put it up as a separate post.

When my friend died at the age of 53 from lung cancer, every single person I mentioned it to asked if she smoked. She didn’t but that didn’t make her any less dead. And if she had, so what? Does it make the death any less tragic? I understand that this is a self-soothing mentality of “if I do everything right, nothing bad will happen to me” but this mentality is dangerous. Because bad things will happen to everybody. That’s what being human is like. And then instead of trying to face the damage, people blame themselves and sit there wondering what they did wrong to deserve the calamity.

My friend lived for 4 years after her terminal diagnosis. She spent them asking what she had done to deserve the illness, parsing her every move to see how she had caused the illness. It was heartbreaking. I think she died earlier because of this by taking more morphine than she needed because she couldn’t take the shame and the guilt any more. It was terrible to watch. She had absolutely no symptoms or pain until the last couple of months (caused by a needless operation) but the pain in her soul destroyed her.

We need to abandon this mentality of making every misfortune into a moral issue. You can’t buy your way out of suffering by good behavior. You can’t buy it at all.

9 thoughts on “What You Can’t Buy

  1. You make an excellent point here and not a new one–though one that definitely bears repeating. It reminds me of the story in John where the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And then Jesus healed him. And then all hell broke loose because the Pharisees were mad at Jesus for healing him (they were jealous) and interrogated the poor guy and kicked him out of the synagogue.

    I am starting to see on social media where doctors and nurses have decided NOT to have compassion on people who get Covid if they are unvaccinated. I have close friends who say, “If you refuse the vaccine, get out of my life forever.” The stigma of sickness has never been larger and more isolating than it is today. That is probably why suicide rates are rising. I have struggled with these “friends”. But as always, it is how people respond to adversity that matters. Adversity reveals true character. With that in mind, anyone who blames someone for their illness is lacking –at the very least–a compassionate heart. Since none of us can live perfect lives–always exercise or eat perfect food–or be immune to toxins in the environment–or have perfect genes to begin with–we should all have compassion on those who are sick and seek to comfort and help them.

    I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I am especially sad that she felt so much guilt and shame over something beyond her control. It’s bad enough to get sick–but then to be shunned–is an aberration of human nature.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I got pregnant at almost 40 with a history of severe, insulin-resistant gestational diabetes, I didn’t see any of the many doctors who helped me carry to term judge me. Nobody tried to persuade or force me to abort (like would happen in Cuba, for example). All I saw was complete dedication to helping me carry to term. Should the doctors have told me to get bent because I had made the wrong choice to wait until late thirties to get pregnant? I always thought it was normal that doctors didn’t scold you for whatever brought you to the hospital.

      Also, before anybody pipes up about how late pregnancy with gestational diabetes doesn’t kill anybody, I ask people to think, look at the calendar, and think some more about the need to make such a comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lung cancer is the absolute worst because of things like this. There’s such a strong association with wrongdoing, and that hurts the patients no matter their background.

    And even if an illness is associated with choices…my grandfather died of lung cancer. He did smoke, but it was mesothelioma from his kidneys and intestines that had metastasized into his lungs. He was a carpenter. Asbestos exposure probably directly caused it. What was he supposed to do, not be a carpenter? What does it matter?

    These healthcare workers are hypocrites. All this time hospital workers have been on the receiving end of some very nasty biases (that have been hushed-up) because they maintained work during the lockdown and because they had an increased risk of exposure. Now they’re getting on patients for living their lives post-lockdown and having an increased risk of exposure?

    I experienced discrimination in the healthcare system—there was a lot of blame going around and fear because if you got covid you must have done something wrong and so therefore you aren’t deserving of post-covid care. But I did nothing wrong. My family did nothing wrong. I just worked at a hospital.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For many people, smoking is a powerful coping mechanism. Judging people for needing to cope is dumb. It doesn’t make anybody morally superior if they don’t have these particular psychological problems or this trauma.

      Judging smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers, binge eaters, and gamers is comforting but stupid. Yes, you’ve had an easier life. Yippee. Celebrate that and leave others be.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am one of the few people I know who “beat” their food addiction. I lost 150 pounds. I keep the weight off by living a healthy lifestyle. I have learned on this journey that I don’t get sick very much anymore. Evidently eating copious amounts of fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods is good for the body and increases immunity to various germs. However, I would be the VERY LAST person to condemn an obese person for getting sick (the flu, bronchitis, sinus infections, etc.) because those are all ailments I used to get when I was heavy. I had a higher risk for illness as an “unhealthy” human. I didn’t even recognize it as such. M&M’s were my coping mechanism. And cookies. Lots and lots of homemade cookies.

    We are all at different stages in our journey. We are all in process. Nobody has “arrived”. No one person has all the answers. Yet the amount of bias, hatred and condemnation I heard while in the hospital recently with Ehrlichia against those who “refuse to vaccinate” astounded me. Is it fear? Is it laziness? Is it professional negligence? Do the medical professionals really believe unvaccinated people are “unclean” and therefore do not deserve to be treated with dignity? If they believe that, why did they go into that profession? I have faced medical professionals with fat-bias, but they still gave me medicine–albeit with a lecture. But it made me angry then and it makes me angry now. Medical professionals really do not know everything. If the standard bloodwork doesn’t show what’s wrong, they shrug and send you home. Sometimes they even say, “It’s all in your head.” (as happened to a friend of mine for 25 years who had undiagnosed, crippling asthma).

    We need more grace, more kindness, more goodness and gentleness.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are a hero. This is a stunning achievement.

      I had these persistent back pains for a while. Very debilitating. Dropped a bunch of weight because of COVID, and the pain went away, like a charm. But I needed to get COVID to achieve that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We lost a longtime family friend to lung cancer. She smoked like a chimney: had the most severe case of adult ADHD I’ve ever seen, and nicotine helped, apparently. She was also a brilliant potter, true artist. Even without smoking, the white lung would’ve killed her a couple years later. Smoking and pottery gave her a life worth living. WTF would she have wanted to live to 70 for, if she didn’t do all the stuff she did? None of it would’ve happened without the lung damage– she wouldn’t have been able to concentrate enough for it.

    Liked by 2 people

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