Understanding the Meaning of Health

Topics: Suffering, Medicine, Health Pages: 6 (2144 words) Published: July 7, 2013

Health is subjective and its complexity cannot be captured in a single definition. In this essay, I aim to explore how the death of my uncle has influenced my understanding of the meaning of health. Describe

My uncle was a chef of one of a chain of takeaway restaurants, located in Sydney’s city centre. He and his wife worked long hours enduring the stressful, hot and crowded environment on a daily basis to provide a comfortable living for themselves and their two children. One day, he felt sudden pain while excreting stool. It contained blood, which gave it a dark and almost black appearance. At first he did not believe these symptoms would lead to anything too serious and felt fairly certain it would pass after a few days. However, that was not the case. We observed that my uncle suffered an increase in pain as time went by which affected his ability to cope with his work environment. The pain soon worsened to the stage where we were able to associate it with his short temperament, which was unlike his old self. It got to the extent at which he could no longer hide the pain he suffering despite his efforts. We decided it was necessary and encouraged him to consult his general practitioner. A blood test and computerised tomography scan were taken and the results revealed that my uncle was suffering from an advanced stage of lung cancer that had already begun metastasizing into the bones. We were all emotionally and psychologically affected by this news. My uncle had never been a smoker, which had led to my initial response of shock. Due to the late diagnosis, there weren’t many treatments available. I felt helpless, not being able to relieve the suffering of the person who had cared for me from when I was an infant. He remained an outpatient and was not hospitalised until the two weeks before he passed away when he was then admitted to palliative care. The illness and death, 12 months after his diagnosis, had a large impact on his immediate and extended family. However, it was his wife, who had taken up the role as caretaker, who seemed to be suffering the most, resulting in many sleepless nights even today, 14 months after his death.


It pains me to know that the person I care about suffered so long from the disease. These feelings of guilt for being incapable of being more supportive may have been attributed to the cultural expectations that my parents have instilled in me from a young age. In the Chinese culture, there is an emphasis on developing a strong and caring relationship with both the immediate and extended family members. Reflecting on the way I had dealt with my emotions, I realise how I had affected ineffectively. My fear in discovering more, unacceptance and denial of his disease drove me to build an internal barrier at the start that prevented me from providing the amount of care and support that I would have liked.

Before this experience, I felt the physician’s task of relieving “suffering” was to counteract and remove the immediate pain and discomfort of a patient such as to return them back to good health. However, witnessing the suffering that my uncle experienced has made me recognise that health consists of much more than the simple absence of disease. A more holistic view is required that involves the physical, psychological and social well-being of an individual. This made me consider the difference between pain and suffering and through research, fully understand the distinction between the two in comparison to the assumption I had made in the past. Through research I also hope to better appreciate the multi-faceted dimensions that form an individual, what suffering entails and begin to comprehend the experience from my uncle’s point of view.

Health presents a healthy individual an opportunity to not only strive for his or her own aspirations or happiness but to also complete the routine daily activities that matter in life....
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