(BlackDoctor.org) — During a recent trip back to the East Coast for Thanksgiving, my wife and I both became sick with the flu. Arriving home, we spent a week in bed, drinking gallons of hot tea and endless pots of soup. With both of us sick, conducting more normal lives became extremely difficult.
Getting sick can sometimes feel like entering a state of suspended animation. The outside world continues along its usual trajectory, but you’re frozen in time, ostensibly cut off from the rest of society, stuck in your world of self care, fatigue and illness.
The Initial Isolation of Illness
The isolation of illness is significant and life altering. In the event of cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, diabetes or other illnesses, the sick individual begins to experience loss from the very moment they receive their diagnosis. At the moment the doctor utters a few dreaded words (for example, “You have cancer”), life as it was known ceases to exist and a new life seems to be born.
An individual living with an illness like cancer is immediately isolated from others simply by virtue of the fact that the illness itself creates a gulf between those who have the disease and those who do not. No matter how deeply those without the illness may empathize with those struggling with the disease, there is no true understanding for those who have not experienced the reality, and this can be a lonely place for the sick individual.
Being ill often brings significant changes to the social life. Travel can become challenging—if not impossible—and social gatherings can actually be dangerous, especially for those stricken with diseases that compromise the immune system.