My new column this month at dLife is not exactly a book review, but something more akin to a "book encounter."

I recently received an advance copy of medical writer Jill Sklar's The Five Gifts of Illness.  Sklar was diagnosed herself with Crohn's Disease in 2002.Gifts_of_illness

What she's done is explore the whole concept of "survivorship" from a new angle:

"Surviving chronic illness is a relatively new concept in the history of civilization," Sklar writes. "Looking back over the last millennia, most individuals were lucky to survive long enough to reach adulthood..." She points out that Lance Armstrong with his LiveStrong campaign was the first to "pierce the American psyche by adopting a symbol of survivorship."

Right-O.  Years ago, "coming to terms" with your disease was a non-issue, since surviving generally wasn't an option.  If that doesn't make you feel lucky, the rest of her book just might.

She's interviewed over 100 people living with serious illnesses about their diagnosis experience and how they've since re-assessed their lives. (Several interviewees come from our diabetes community, including myself {briefly}, Violet, and Gina Capone.)

In the end, nearly everyone interviewed found their chronic illness experience in some way life-affirming -- leading to a kind of Reverse Midlife-Crisis: instead of fretting that your life is halfway over, the disease impels you to celebrate all the life that you have left.

According to Sklar, the five themes or "gifts" that emerged after people were unexpectedly diagnosed with serious illness were:

  • Relationships— some existing friendships were "weeded out" by the bad news, but manyothers deepened, and rewarding new friendships were discovered
  • Timeand Being — a sense of well-being is no longer taken for granted, andactually becomes a motivational force (like wanting to marry, havechildren or travel NOW, rather than later)
  • Altruism — finding new value in volunteer work, and devoting their lives to helping others
  • Emotions— becoming "committed to having a more emotionally fulfilling life."Ironically, many people felt less fearful and more emotionally freeafter their diagnosis
  • Goals — a strong shift in life goals(professional, family, retirement, spiritual) that altered the courseof their life for the better, they said

I certainly wouldn't wish diagnosis on anyone, but personally, I could relate.  My diabetes truly has brought me all five of these "gifts."  Read more about it at Straight Up.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.