When You’re an Expert…

I have a dear friend who has lived with a pretty dire medical prognosis for over a year, and in spite of moments of sadness and depression, she seems to carry on her life with remarkable energy, savoring everything worth savoring. She is a writer and enjoys organizing her time, prioritizing projects, and having a plan for the future, however short or long it may be. She divides the time ahead into three-month chunks, with a “theme” for each chunk, taking great satisfaction in finishing a 90-day period, and diving into a new one with a new theme and matching projects.

Although not a social media follower, she recently joined a chat room related to her diagnosis on the Mayo Clinic website. She kept quiet for a while, reading posts from others in her situation, careful not to jump into the sometimes highly emotional, sometimes confrontational fray. Eventually she realized that these were her people, that she did indeed belong in this chat room, much as she, and all the others, wished they didn’t. Because she is a creative, generous, engaging force, she has now graduated from participant to “volunteer mentor” and is spending many hours a week coaching and supporting others facing challenges like hers. Maybe they have just received a diagnosis and are in shock and despair, as she was a year ago. She knows what that is like and is the best possible companion in that moment. Maybe they are struggling with impossible decisions about which treatment, when and where, or decisions about whether to treat at all. She has been there, too, and although she would never make the decision for them, she can ask questions, listen, sympathize, and support. She knows what it is like to be living with a challenging, uncertain life. She is an expert, just as much so as the doctors and technicians.

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