8 Steps To Help You Rebuild Your Life After Illness

03/20/2015 07:42 am ET | Updated May 20, 2015

Heart, cancer, stroke, COPD, other serious illness, stressful operation? It's only a wake-up call, don't give up! For the majority of the last 47 years, I've lived a happy, fulfilling life. It wasn't easy and it took a lot of determination and hard work. But I'll always remember this admonition by a professor in college: "One man's tears are another man's lesson." Perhaps my tears can provide some direction to you or a loved one. After all, I was considered dead once.

So here are those "dead man's" eight steps.

Step One: Reduce pampering and self-pity and take positive actions. In other words, "stand up and be counted" and take responsibility for good or ill. Block out any insecurity and know that it's going to be good!

Step Two: Develop positive mental attitudes and actions that convey present day philosophy and activity. Get with the times, with music, reading, television, computers, iPhones, smart phones, whatever it takes. I found that relating with young people made my situation a lot easier.

Step Three: Remember that mental "gymnastics" will necessarily follow physical wellbeing. Understand the body but don't "baby" it. According to the U.S. Department of Health, exercise lowers the risk of stroke by 27 percent. I figured that if it worked that well to prevent stroke, it must work to help with rewiring and recovery. Worth a try. And, it worked. I followed this exercise routine faithfully. Every morning. Even, when I was tired. Even, when it was inconvenient. Even, when I plain just didn't want to.

Step Four: Regain normality in life as quickly as possible. I reduced the amount of rest and made my "awake" hours count for more. I forced myself to retire at a regular hour and rise at a regular hour each morning, just as I did in my working years. It all gets to be a habit.

Step Five: Speak, read out loud, enunciate, stop slurring and doing the easy, but sloppy ways. I spoke with groups, spoke in public. Even learned to teach. I took hold and tried to lead a normal existence of being around and communicating with others, normally, with all the confusion, complications and responsibilities of life. And people.

Step Six: Learn new things. I found that by stimulating my mind and educating myself helped me to become nearly "whole" again. Once I learned new things, I discovered that I could practice and improve on my new, found knowledge by sharing it with others. And, learned to laugh, at life, at myself.

Step Seven: Listen to and follow medical advice. They're the pros and new developments are making things potentially better all the time. I'm not going to climb mountains, scuba dive or win athletic events. There are physical restrictions, more serious at first, but fewer as you continue to adapt to a new way of living. I experimented with simple activities at first, and as things got easier, I challenged myself more and more. Over time I was able to do things I was told I couldn't. While sports things like skiing or tennis (even table) were out of the question, fun alternatives such as golf, swimming, fishing; were a reality. But life's necessities like showering and shaving. eating and drinking, sleeping and functioning, etc. etc. became commonplace. As the golf "super" expressed in frustration at my game: "Well, it's still better to walk on top of the grass than underneath."

Step Eight: This is the simplest. It's reading and learning about medical advances, life today, triumphs of man against adversity, and your triumphs to come. Learning about activities that you might do. The avocations and hobbies that might allow you to be better, do better, achieve better.

There's no doubt that I've had my share of tears. But once I was able to look past my self-pity, focus on the positive opportunities and outcomes, I began to persevere.

I hope that my past might provide insight into your future. As the song goes: "Forget your troubles and just get happy."

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

11 Easy Ways To Shorten Your Life