Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

The Endurance Factor

Athletes at all levels know the importance of training and practice.  They are engaged in routines that for months on end so they will be at their peak performance before the season begins.  Unfortunately, those facing a health challenge don’t get that luxury.  When facing a health crisis/challenge you receive the diagnosis and a treatment plan is put in place.  For many the beginning of treatment is within days or weeks of the diagnosis, so how do you prepare yourself for the journey.

The old saying that life is not a sprint is a marathon is true.  Every day we are faced with challenges and as we learn we can utilize the knowledge to make the next leg of the journey easier.  How do you develop endurance to make it through treatment when you have no basis of comparison for an event of this magnitude?  You chunk it down into parts that are manageable.

The 12-step programs talk about one day at a time.  I worked in an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility and one day at a time is important.  What the general public often doesn’t hear is that if one day at a time is too big to wrap your arms around than make it one hour at a time.  Many treatments require successive days of treatment, we see that especially in radiation therapy.  The treatment can seem endless, taxing and overwhelming but only focusing on today’s treatment and putting blinders on to other days is step one.

Unlike the athletes that train for months, as a patient going through treatment you train in the moment.  During times of intensity call in your support troops.  Take as much off your plate as possible.  It’s the difference between a flood light and a spotlight.  The spotlight is focused energy.  By removing everything and anything that doesn’t serve your wellness in the moment allows you to focus all your attention, concentration and energy on getting through the next treatment and then stop.  You’ll have plenty of time to spend focusing on the next treatment the next day.

Endurance is not only physical, but our soul needs stamina.  When our stamina both physically and spiritually is depleted do what the government is doing and borrow some stamina.  It’s like pinch hitting, the support team can’t go for your treatment (although that would be great), but they can offer their energy when you feel like you can’t take another step.  This is for you and your primary wellness partner.  Accept the generosity of others to cook a meal for you.  If you need errands run let someone else pick up your dry cleaning.  If you want to relax let someone create a CD of your favorite music (if you don’t have an ipod), or maybe have someone read to you (one of Robin Cooks’ medical mysteries may not be your first choice).

Treatment is a marathon.  If you listen to the stories of marathon runners they will all tell you that there is a point in the race when they all hit the wall.  The point when their legs are burning, their will is diminishing and they are questioning why they ever started on the 26.2 mile trek.  Amazingly it passes and then the last few miles are run as the first few miles were run, with freedom, energy and determination.  Don’t abandon the race because you hit the wall.  Like in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman” if you can’t find a way to go over the wall go around it or under, but get past it.

My thoughts are with all of you who are hitting the wall.  Know that you have what it takes to get to the finish line and I’m standing on the sidelines cheering you on as you continue your courageous journey to health.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s