At a very young age, we were given the quest to imagine our future careers, family, and what our lives will look like. In our early years, the educational system fails to teach us basic life skills like grit, resilience, and handling moments that flips your world upside down. A life-changing event can be abuse, breast cancer, or the diagnosis of a chronic illness.
For Hilary Jastram, her unexpected diagnosis brought light into her life and family. Before her illness, she was living life on the fast lane towards a possible nervous breakdown. She was overworked, stressed, drained, neglected her family, and scattered. Her resentment towards everything and everyone was starting to reach the surface. After months of tests, her doctors diagnosed her with transverse myelitis, a sister disease to MS (multiple sclerosis). This disease attacks the myelin sheathing of the spinal cord, and Hilary’s disease was caused by long-term Lyme disease complemented by fibromyalgia. As painful and debilitating as her life has become, it has given her the new perspective that she yearned for —life at a slower pace, with less stress, and on her own terms.
Having a chronic illness alters the lives of everyone around you. Most days are not unicorns and rainbows. However, Hilary chose to be of inspiration to others. When you speak with Hilary, it feels like getting a burst of warmth by the sun on a chilly day. She keeps up a positive attitude even when suffering from such a painful sickness. While embracing her true nature of helping others, she shares with us her three mantras on finding strength after being told of her difficult diagnosis.
“While suffering a chronic illness, the key to living an abundant life is to let go of the things you cannot control and live in the present.”Hilary Jastram
- “I am not dying today!” – It is completely normal to feel relief and fear after being diagnosed, after months or years without answers. For many, being in a state of emotional pain is comforting due to having a difficult past. The fear of living an abundant life amidst the unknown is problematic because it creates a resistance to happiness. Fear can be comforting. While suffering a chronic illness, the key to living an abundant life is to let go of the things you cannot control and live in the present. Hilary wants to remind others, who have a chronic illness, that they are not dying today, even on days of excruciating emotional and physical pain. Her mantra is a daily reminder to stay present because even when sick, she recognizes our bodies are incredible and possess more strength than we know.
- “The gift of being sick” – Hilary’s diagnosis was a gift. She quickly realized that the less she focused on her past life and welcomed her new reality, life became brighter and more manageable. She encourages us to pause for a moment. To be in tune with our bodies, to give them the love they finally need, one has to move past the outrage, the anger, and the denial. We might be able to see that there is a gift in being still. There is no more significant opportunity to build strength than when sickness befalls you. Try to address the sickness and everything else to feel the best you possibly can. Even if life is forever different, it might just get better when the storm passes.
- “What am I supposed to do with this?” – By understanding that things are going to happen, whether we want them or not, Hilary learned to find comfort in letting go. Instead of asking, “Why me?” which implies victimhood and that somehow we deserve whatever had happened, that there was a reason, a crappy one at that, ask yourself, “What am I supposed to do with this?” All we can do is hang on. Choose every day to make the most of the incredible reality we have been given. We beat a lot of odds to be here. It must be for a reason. Be open in your heart and mind. We are meant to do something with our deepest pain, whether it’s to help others prevent theirs or use it to accomplish what we wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.
Hilary is a resilient woman. She chooses to lay down anger and turn on her empathy. Her chronic illness has brought new unique opportunities into her life. After losing her job due to her illness and needing to support her family, she created J. Hill Marketing. Her company specializes in copywriting and book editing for entrepreneurs and brands. She is an author and contributor to multiple media outlets. In drawing from her own experiences and her passion for helping people tell their stories, she founded Sick Biz, a non-profit supporting sick and disabled entrepreneurs. She also hosts the podcast Sick Biz Buzz.