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What almost dying taught me about living - Suleika Jaouad • TED2019

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

“The hardest part of my cancer experience began once the cancer was gone” - Suleika Jaouad. In this episode of TED Talks Daily, Suleika shares her journey battling leukaemia and the very real physical and psychological challenges she faced after her disease went into remission.

My two main takeaways:

1) The divide between the “sick” and “well”

She questions the divide between the realms of “sick” and “well” - it is not as clearly defined as we reflexively believe.

Often, when an illness is “visible”, like a bandaged limb or bruise on the face, we intuitively understand the limitations that it poses. However, when the impairment is invisible (e.g. mental illnesses, chronic pain, being in the role of a caregiver), we sometimes struggle to empathise and impose unrealistic expectations on such people.

2) Finding common ground

While Suleika underwent inpatient treatment, she received many messages from strangers. After she was discharged from hospital, she went to visit some of these strangers to connect with them.

One of the most interesting people she met was an inmate on death row. Even though the problems they faced seemed completely different, their experiences and the coping mechanisms they developed were similar: they both felt the complex emotion arising from the constant awareness of death lurking in the shadows and not knowing if and when it would strike.

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