If someone asked me to write a list of my top life priorities five years ago, my answers would have been so predictable. I had just finished uni, I was doing that thing where you start to question what life is about because you can’t be a student anymore, and I was desperate to keep up. Whatever everyone else was doing and making seem like the right thing- I wanted that. I wanted to get a good job, earn enough money to save each month, move in with my boyfriend as soon as possible, travel as much as I could and cling on to my uni friends. That was the top tier of wants. It was like a sudden rush of ‘must do this to be happy’ and that was all my brain focused on.
These things did quite quickly change, once I got used to the shock of no longer having ‘I am a student’ as an excuse for, well, everything. One thing I had never really thought on or troubled myself much over was health. I was okay. Probably considered a bit of a ‘sick note’ by some people due to my ability to catch any cold going round and take it to next level with a kick ass chest infection and some asthma sprinkled on top. Apart from that though I was mostly fine. I didn’t have any real health worries.
Fast forward five years and my priorities are now entirely different. This is not unexpected of course, five years is half a decade. It’s a long enough time to feel a shift in your life course, and mine has been shifted, in fact flipped entirely, by health. Not just my health, which has taken me down a very confusing and sore path the last few years, but the people I love too. I lost a grandparent, dealt with a parent getting a cancer diagnosis and not long after that, my best friend got cancer too. A parent and someone my own age who I had shared everything with for almost my entire life, had to fight cancer, and it was suddenly all about health.
When I first started feeling ill aged almost 22, I did everything I could to ignore it. I tried to sleep more, eat a bit better, take vitamins, self-diagnose with all sorts of stuff that would fix itself- but to no avail. I had no idea growing up that the aches, pains and strange symptoms I felt and had grown used to were linked to a rare disease, or how much it would alter my life from the day I woke up with a sore right shoulder. I thought everyone had the same grumbles as me, the same sharp pains in hands and feet, strange cramps in my hips and feet- I just thought it was part and parcel of growing up, so I never made a huge fuss.
You don’t plan for health, not really, but we all have it, be it good or bad, losing or winning.
After the shock of my mum and oldest friend having cancer, all I wanted was to be healthy. My priorities changed from wanting to do things, achieve things and own things, to just be alright. I wanted to make myself and everyone I loved better- better from cancer, better from any little ailment they might be suffering. We just had to be healthier and that was all that mattered.
That thing where you toast with a drink and someone says ‘your good health’- that suddenly made sense. Yes please, my good health and everyone else’s.
It seems a very adult and wise thing to wish for some reason, even though it shouldn’t and even though I’m hardly a serious youngster these days at the ripe old age of 26. Health just became my number one priority over night. It topped and still tops all the lists and I can’t see it shifting.