By Tomlin Paul
Quite often a patient says to me: "Doc, I want you to test for everything!"
As I tick off tests on the lab forms, I search but find no test for love. Yet, many years of seeing sickness in all shapes and forms have taught me that love is always somewhere there in the midst of it all. In medical school, we learn all of the science underpinning our bodies and we search for signs of disease. Biopsies and autopsies bring out the track of sinister disease. But with all of the forensics and DNA testing, we can't easily see the footprint of love.
The footprint of love
Every illness you have encountered has a history or a story to it. You often tell that story to the doctor but tell it more completely and with passion to family and friends. Who did what and when and where! How you felt and what really hurt you more than the injection! Some of us, long after we have recovered, still tell our stories at every opportunity. Surrounding the experience, the pain and suffering and encounters, there is a love footprint.
When you think of where you have been, you may find one of three things:
For example, it has been shown that a man who is in a love relationship is more likely to go for his checks for cancer and blood pressure, and so on. At the end of the day, the love and care of his partner can make a difference.
Whether love for self, love for neighbour or romantic love, love denied or not expressed can affect our well-being and contribute to sickness and disease. In healthy days, love can be taken for granted. Sickness, however, can quickly bring dependence, disability and despondence. Whether this happens in the short or long term, it can test our love for self and others.
Loving better and living longer
They say older persons make better lovers! By the age 50 and beyond as you move between sickness and health, love for self and love in your relationship would have been tested. Those tests can strengthen commitment and improve the quality and meaning of relationships over time. Unlike your blood test, I can't give you a printout or report on where love is in your life. If you take the time, however, to reflect and roll with the challenges of the years and to keep 'exercising' love, I believe you will become a better lover with each passing year.
Love, when nurtured, grows with time. There is something about love that wakes up your heart and mind. Love, in all of its forms and expressions, is undoubtedly the greatest emotion. If you have someone to love and you are loved, give thanks and celebrate it this week and always as you are more likely to live a longer and happier life.
Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician at Health Plus Associates in Kingston; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.