Who of us hasn’t considered spending a day in our PJs and slouching around; turning a blind eye to the pile of washing up in the sink and the unmade beds?
Who of us hasn’t considered eating breakfast in bed with a good book as the height of luxury?
But what if you haven’t got a choice. What if bed is where you have spent not one lazy day but many weeks unable to get up? What if that had been landed on you?
Earlier this year, after a successful operation on my foot, I found myself being ‘blue lighted’ in an ambulance to our local emergency department with heart problems. Tests and
leads were applied and crowds of medical people gathered round me as they watched my pulse rate rise and fall. An elephant was sitting on my chest (figuratively speaking!). Though I was slightly out of it, family were already considering the possible outcomes and what the future might look like.
I had trained and worked as a nurse all my life, but now I was a patient. Confused, fearful, in pain, disorientated and the future uncertain. For me, illness began with a bang that lasted several weeks.
This was Emily Ackerman’s experience when in her twenties, juggling her career as a doctor, with a young family, hobbies, friends and church life, she was struck down by a mystery illness. The days turned to months, and rolled into years. Like me roles had reversed and she faced illness from the other side of the bedcovers. A doctor turned patient.
Emily tells her own story but skilfully waves in other strands. She begins with the life of Joseph and throughout the book, using his life experiences, mirrors the stages of life with illness. Now you can understand the book title too; The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy.
She connects other stories with her own and tackles issues many face with life changing illness: loss, pain, guilt, self-pity, bitterness and fear.
At the end of each chapter there are helpful reflections with practical questions to consider;
• What new hobby can I try out since I cannot do my previous one?
• Are there practical things I could do, such as cheering up my bedroom?
And since she was spending so much time lying in bed, the ceiling was the place to start!
And there are the quotable quotes from the famous and not so famous people, funny and serious. My personal favourite is by Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken”.
She anchors her reflections in the biblical account of the life of Joseph and two underlying principles: God’s plan for his life and the importance of choosing a good attitude. Cleverly, Bible passages are printed in the text of the book making it ideal for those who might struggle to juggle two books at once. It poses some challenges; what are your foundations built on? This earthquake of poor health and increasing disability will rock them. Emily tackles the difficult questions of healing; how would you feel when you and your husband are sick with similar symptoms and the church and family pray, and he is healed and you get worse?
But it’s practical all the way. What do you do with the people who say “if there’s anything I can do to help”? ... ‘What might you and I do if we wanted to help a person such as Emily? What can a well friend offer a sick person?
It’s honest, and she deals with the ways that, in her words, illness sneaks into all areas of marriage and family life. She provides all kinds of resources to build healthy households.
Finally, she considers her spiritual health. Worship, for her, was singing, dancing and clapping. Not any more. Thus she invented the Emily Toe Dance. She invites you to try it. (I did, and it was fun!)
Joseph lived to a great old age, saw his family grow and met his grandchildren and great grandchildren. But Emily writes about those who face terminal illness, whose lives will be cut short. Again she writes honestly and practically to encourage all of us to finish the race well.
This book will help you if you are facing illness whether it started with a bang or crept in and lingers. It offers encouragement, honesty and practical hints as to how you can face those battles that come your way. This book also helps those of us who want to help and be there for others who are suffering. It provides advice on the best way we can support and demonstrate loving care.
Emily’s testimony of the faithfulness of God, just like Joseph’s story, will encourage all who read the book, that God knows us, does not forget us and is with us, when we walk through difficult times and even the valley of the shadow of death.
For those reasons, I will be recommending this book to the students on my pastoral care course, to enable them to be practitioners who understand the little things they can do to offer support and hope for anyone who is suffering.
It might be the cover, or the cartoon layout, but the book can appear to be lightweight and frivolous which its not. You can read it in one go, or dip into the specific issue as you deal with people. It would be good to have a copy to give away!
July 12th, 2015 - Posted & Written by Together Magazine