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By Kate Silver

This article originally published on


Dear health,


 


This was the year that everything changed for us.

For decades and decades, we’d been bopping along and – my apologies – I rarely gave you much thought, outside of the occasional cold or that broken ankle in my early 20s.

Then, 2018 hit, and with it, countless visits to doctors and specialists, an array of medications, tests galore, one surgery followed rapidly by another – and more than a few gray hairs from it all.

You know the phrase, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” That’s been going through my head a lot. This year, it’s become clear that I’ve taken you for granted for most of my life. But that realization has also given me a deep appreciation for you. If anything, 2018 has taught me about how to handle health challenges. I want to share a few things I’ve learned, in hopes of helping others, and to let you, dear health, know that I appreciate you now more than ever.

Embrace the good days. Years have gone by when words like “good days” didn’t even enter my mind when it comes to health. But this year, I’ve learned the value of the days when you just don’t even think about how you feel because things are going well. Those days taste sweeter than ever because I’ve learned to not take them for granted.

Educate yourself using reliable sources. You’ve heard the cautionary tales when it comes to health issues and the internet. People have likely warned you, “Don’t Google it!” But the truth is, that if you’re struggling with health challenges, the internet is a siren’s song. If you’re going to start Googling, be sure to read legitimate sites with information that is valuable. Limit yourself to reading resources that are associated with universities, science-based journals, and other verified public health sites. Avoid other sites that could share false information or cause you even more anxiety.

Find a support group. When you’re struggling with a health issue, it has the power to consume all of your waking thoughts. That means it also works its way into a lot of conversations with friends and family. And while friends and family can be incredible sources of support, they may not understand what you’re going through. Plus, who wants to talk about illness all the time? A quick online search could lead you to a support group filled with people who do understand. Personally, I’ve learned a great deal through a private Facebook group that’s filled with people who share my condition. They’ve been able to offer hope and share sympathy in good times and bad.

Take care of yourself. It’s more important than ever to give your health the respect it deserves. That means eating nutritious meals, exercising, finding activities that relieve stress, getting a full night’s sleep, and really responding to what your body needs.

Be grateful for how far we’ve come. Science and medicine have changed our world. They’ve enabled us to live longer lives than previous generations. Scientists have cured diseases and created medicines and procedures that allow us to live full and productive lives. Just as we shouldn’t take our health for granted, we shouldn’t lose sight of how good we have it when it comes to medicine today. And, remember, there’s research taking place now that will continue to change medicine in the future.

The bottom line, dear health, is that you’re a trooper. This year may have tested you, but it’s also reminded me to put you first. We’re in this together. I’ve got your back, and I know you've got mine, whatever the future holds.

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