Monday, 30 May 2011

The Case For Indulging In Passions

I have it on the best authority that being obsessed can be a good thing.
Let me explain:

Twice in the past twenty odd years I have been close to extinction physically, once with kidney failure and once with cancer; both came out of nowhere, both hit me practically overnight. The first time my immune system got the wrong message and turned on me instead of protecting me, while the cancer sneaked up  while I wasn't paying attention and simply fell out of me one morning.

Neither occasion was pleasant. Both had nasty treatments and subsequently caused other problems. It also was not true for me what they say about being seriously ill giving you such a shock that, if you are lucky enough to survive, you change your life and henceforth live each day 'to the max'.  That only lasts for a short period; personally, I  was soon back in my slothful ways.

Reader, fear not: this is not going to be a tale of woe about ailments, but rather a short guide on how to get over them.


The more obsessed you are with a healthy pursuit, the better your chances of survival.

Beloved and I had not been together for long when nephrotic syndrome hit me. After years of solitary struggle I was madly in love, deliriously happy and high on passion, literally. Stays in hospital were nothing more than annoying interruptions of this wonderful state of being. Doctors and surgeons insisted that I must be hospitalised three times in one year, but they did let me out to get married and have three days off for good behaviour afterwards. I must have bored the nurses and doctors rigid with tales of my good fortune during that time; in the end I became something of a mascot,  their favourite bad penny, in and out like a yo-yo.

By the time cancer struck I had got used to being in a twosome; my attention had shifted focus. Among other things, I had become passionate about  gardening; having moved to the countryside and acquired a large patch made that entirely necessary, as well as a great pleasure.

I was again extremely fortunate that I hit it off with my oncologist/surgeon and during the full year of treatments and visits we became firm gardening buddies. This continued for as long as I had to see her, every aftercare session turned into a discussion on our progress in the garden, hers and mine.  She was as passionate about gardening as I was, in fact, her narrow and delicate surgeon's hands were rough and calloused from tending potatoes.

On both occasions the medical staff congratulated me on my attitude towards being ill. Being positive helps, although there are times when 'being positive' is more than the patient can bear and letting go temporarily is as healthy as being strong. Remission or survival are not always the outcome, death is always on the cards too.

But my oncologist actually put it into words for me, she said: " I find that those of my patients who have a focus away from the cancer, who are passionate about something, something that they find totally absorbing, have the best chance of survival".


  1. This makes complete sense. Too much self-analysis and self-absorption can lead to greater misery. My sister was a very upbeat, busy, involved person and that's what kept her going through 25 years of various cancers - and most of us didn't know she had cancer until the last months of her life.

  2. nice. i agree as well...and some things may never be confirmed factual or explained why but this makes perfect sense...

  3. This is so true, Friko. I know myself that the years I have been passionate about something were ones that I look back on without any memory of the difficult parts. I wish I could find something now to be as passionate about as I was about skydiving for two decades! :-)

  4. Hello Friko:
    First, we can never, for one moment, imagine that you are in any way slothful.

    Secondly, it is, we are sure, your positive approach to all things at all times that has ensured your survival to date, and which will stand you in good stead for the years ahead. Could it be those little 'forays' for coal all those years ago which gave you such a good grounding in this?

    But yes, it is so important to have a passion in life and, equally, to be passionate about life. You have your garden, but we should guess that this is only one of many, many all consuming interests. And then there is this blog which for us, as for so many, is so enriching of life.

  5. I am sure you are correct: passion s the best cure for most things.

  6. Yes, I think having a passion for life as a whole or any part of it can be the difference between continuing to live. I can't say that I have a passion for one thing as you do for gardening, but I live for new experiences and challenges, enjoy learning about many things, enjoy conquering tasks as I learn. It makes each day exciting, and I look forward to the next.

    I'm so glad you found your obsession,Friko. I'm glad we got to "meet." :)

  7. oh yes, absolutely. thought is energy, focus directs that energy. the more a person dwells on how ill they are the more power and strength they give to the illness.

  8. I have no doubt at all about this - attitude is a huge component of recovery. In 1997 my immune system went after me, and after consultation with specialists, I decided that the medication offered was potentially worse than the disease (and they agreed!) - and went off to eat better, rest and most of all LIVE. Two years later all xrays were clear and I am still 'in remission' but I think that means 'all better'.
    Stay passionate, Friko!

  9. I tried posting a comment and feel a bit silly trying to reproduce it verbatim-- doesn't quite ring as true the second time around when copying your own words!

    Anyway, Friko, I'm here and reading. And moved by your post.

  10. I think you're right . Enjoyment in something .... anything .... is energising and calming at the same time . And , even if it doesn't increase your chances of survival , at least you're living now to the full .
    (And I agree , too , about allowing people to feel that they've had enough , however hard it is for us to let go .)

  11. We knew our neighbor was near the end the year she didn't put out a vegetable garden. Outdoor work had seen her through bouts with cancer, her husband's death, and any number of setbacks -- once she told me "The worse I feel, the harder I work.' She finally just wore out -- in her late eighties and forty years after the first diagnosis of cancer.

  12. I know exactly what you mean, Friko. I've always thought of it as enthusiasm but it's the same thing. I had cancer surgery in 1978 without feeling sorry for myself until friends brought their baby to the hospital to see me. When I held him, he kicked me in my incision!
    I once applied for mortgage insurance and had to be interviewed by a nice young insurance agent.
    He took out a list of diseases and asked me which ones I'd had. I answered "yes" to most of them, and he finally decided I must be strong if I'd survived all that. Sadly, he died more than 10 years ago, while I am still hobbling along, with all of my enthusiasms and a good portion of my health intact.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  13. I find myself nodding in agreement with all you say here, Friko. Purpose and passion are vital to a full life rather than mere existence. And I loved the fact that you've shared a little bit more about yourself and your life.

    Enjoy your garden to the full!

  14. I understand this all too well! I'm not supposed to be here but I am.

  15. I "found" you at Jeannie's blog and I have to say, you and your oncologist are so right.

    I wouldn't make it through CHF or Lupus without the fact that I want to wake up everyday and see my family. They really are my passion. [Wish I could garden - so jealous] I guess I WAS always meant to be a Mom and a Wife.

    It's a blessing. Now excuse me while I listen to my thirteen year old [Wallene] singing while blow drying her hair. It is magic.

    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  16. Thanks so much for your comments. I'm not so very fed up at the moment - just in transition. My own surgery comes in just over a week. My garden was my passion for many years - work took my time away and things went south then pain took work away and now surgery has come sooner than expected which is delightful! But my garden, which was likely not going to get done by me anyway, will be on hold. Or not. I am excited to be able to dream about it again even if the work is beyond me. Next year I will likely be able to be up to my elbows again.

  17. ja, daran glaube ich absolut. Wieviele geistige Kräfte wirklich in uns stecken wissen wir wohl kaum und gerade an diese Kräfte glaube ich mit ganzer Freude, aus ganzem Herzen!
    Dir einen guten und schönen Abend!

  18. You are our cheerleader, dear lady,
    one of the grand spirits that cannot
    be quelled by misery, by illness,
    by happenstance. Yes, I planned
    for five years, or more, setting up
    passionate projects for my
    retirement, poetry, photography,
    theater, films, like taking the
    road least traveled for the thrill
    of it, that's what makes all the

  19. Even when one isn't ill, it's wonderful, as you say, to do the thing one loves the most. So much more important to keep it up as much as possible when one is ill.

  20. I call zombies those who trudge through life blind and passionless. I'm determined not to be one.

  21. That sounds like excellent advice. I do think finding a way to be outside of yourself is excellent medicine for most things.

  22. How very true! The mind is an amazing thing. Wishing you a healthy, happy, busy future :)

  23. This is a very moving post. It's so true to step outside yourself and get involved. Your rose is lovely. Our winter was harsh and all but one of my rose bushes died. I'm busy replanting. Now that is my passion. Love and Peace.

  24. Hi Friko~ Thanks for the reminder that one needs to get out of oneself. I do believe that otherwise one becomes vulnerable to disease, depression, low self-esteem. Brava to you for being a two-time survivor! You have found wonderful passions, Friko! I'm happy for you!

  25. although i've only just discovered your blog, i sometimes feel like i know more about you than some real world friends and neighbours. thanks for sharing yet another part of your life!

    like you, being passionate about something is what got me bouncing back after a year of unexpected illnesses and a knee op.

    thank goodness for capoeira! nothing like being smacked in the head to get the old juices flowing again :)

    have a great week, friko xox

  26. Wonderfully posititive post that helps in more ways than just coping with illness! Thank you Friko

  27. Hi! Wonderful rose picture and nice write good. gald that i found your blog! i was so happy about your commnet in my blog =)

  28. Friko, I don't think I changed my wicked ways either when I had a heart attack and then a stroke. Through it all the garden beckoned this gardener, although at times I feel like plowing it up and starting all over. Of course I won't I have learned things, including the phlox now threatenting mildew are better the next day, or after a gentle rain. Dianne

  29. I remember being passionate about a lover - still happens now and again! But I envy you your passion for gardening - there are things I like to do but nothing that really gets me going and gives me pure pleasure. I would love that and you've made me think about what I might do to find a passion. Hmm. Good post, Friend Friko.

  30. It makes perfect sense to me. I'm sorry you've had your health woes but very happy that you have passions.

  31. I like your comment about letting go periodically. I have a strategy for dealing with woe: do what has to be done, and the rest of the time distract yourself. When that doesn't work, roll around in self-pity, wailing and tearing out your hair for as long as it takes for you to get the point where you can't stand yourself anymore. Then stand up, take a shower, and go back to start.

  32. The Japanese call it 'ikigai'
    -YOU have it
    and SHARE it!

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral




  33. Hello Friko I'm sure you're right.

    Serious illness tends to suck us into a vortex of despair and helplessness. We exist in a world that has become very small and intense. So, I admire your positivity. You have certainly made a good case for indulging your passion.


  34. This is brilliant. I don't believe I've heard this before, and it makes perfect sense of course. I wonder how someone "finds" a passion though. You were fortunate to have them, but I wonder if you can choose something to focus on and become passionate about it.

    I'm very glad you got through these two maladies as you did, and that you had these joys pulling you through. What a difference they made.

    When my friend Inge was done with chemo after breast cancer, she asked the oncologist how to prevent its return. He said: Be happy. Maybe that is a bit of the same medicine as Be passionate.

  35. Good thinking and good advice!


  36. I am so glad I've come here (through Deborah); your writing and spirit are both so vigorous and complete that I am smiling with joy to know of this place and your emotional intelligence. Thank the stars you weathered those crises!

  37. I know what you mean. I have had a passion since being a child – traveling. I just came back from a tiring 3 weeks abroad and thought that now I should take time to get the house in order and other things. But I am already planning our next trip, even if it is going to be several months ahead – I can’t stop myself, it is a passion. If I can’t plan a trip far away, I plan a trip for a place in town I have never seen. I just finished planning one…..for tomorrow!


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