Friday, August 8, 2014

Selflessness for Health

The news was not good.

A family friend, whom I've grown to love and consider family over the eight years I've known Mark, was in the hospital. Fluid was filling his body, and doctors were scrambling to take it off. Liter after liter was removed but still, many more remained.

For weeks, doctors have danced a delicate line of trying to improve the situation without compromising other areas of his health. There have been glimmers of hope and close calls. It's been a difficult time for all those involved, those who love him and care for him.

I've found it challenging as I anticipate each step, each challenge in his medical care because the situation is all too familiar. The fluid surrounding the lungs and heart. The medical sedation. The grim outlook. I've been through this with my mom, five years ago. I watched her die, saw the last heart beat. I heard the final breath.

And, like my mom, a part of the reason this friend lies in a hospital is because he failed to take care of himself and take responsibility for his health. And, like my mom, the ones who are really hurt are not the people in the hospital bed - it is the people who are standing around it, crying.

We often hear that people don't take time to take care of themselves because they don't have time. They are too busy doing things for other people. They are too busy taking care of others. They are too selfless.

But, the truth is that not taking care of yourself is selfish. The choice to eat poorly or to be sedentary or not seek appropriate medical attention is selfish. The failure to take responsibility for one's health is selfish.


When the situation spirals, the unhealthy one not only can't care for others - he can't care for himself. He can't drive himself to the doctor appointments and treatments. He can't perform regular errands. Sometimes, he can't do the basic things to sustain his life - cook food, get a drink of water, walk to the bathroom.

When the situation spirals, the unhealthy one is not the one standing around the hospital bed. He is not the one crying. He is not the one wondering about how he is supposed to continue his life. He is not the one left alone.

The decision - or, really series of decisions - to ignore the signs and medical advice to take care of oneself, lose weight, to banish bad behaviors is a decision to let your loved ones suffer the consequences. It is saying, "I don't care enough about you to care about me. I love those things more than I love you."

And that, to me, is selfish.

To be selfless, one would acknowledge that the road to health is hard but worth it. To be selfless, making better decisions would improve the quality of life not just for one but everyone. To say goodbye to the familiar, the safe, the comforting means that they won't have to say goodbye later.


  1. This is so powerful. I'm sorry you had to experience such pain, but I hope someone can read this and be motivated to spare their loved ones from the same fate.

  2. I got chills when I read this post. Your words are strong and true. I will be thinking about and praying for your friend. xoxo