Breast cancer lesson number 76: Why being healthy doesn’t automatically make you happy… and why it should

Back in September 2007, when a surgeon decided to saw my pelvis in three and reshape my hip socket, I vowed I would never take walking for granted again. I renewed that vow when, in December of that year, I was stood in my parent’s kitchen with no crutches trying to remember how to put one foot in front of the other (it was surprisingly hard). I thought that being able to walk without pain would somehow make me ecstatically happy. The truth is, beyond the odd twinge and few bad shoe decisions, I haven’t really thought about walking (let alone felt happy about it) for the last five years.

Will I be noticeably happier when my current health problems are tucked away in another of life’s closed chapters? Experience tells me I won’t. Of course, I’ll have hair, an immune system, a nipple and maybe some nicely manicured nails. But, when the badge of good health is stamped on my medical records (or I just get a nice letter telling me to come back in a year), I will probably do what every other human being on this planet does ­– I’ll just find something else to worry out.

Good health, when you’ve got it, doesn’t buy you happiness. That’s because, when you’re healthy, you don’t really think about it. When was the last time you randomly thanked your pancreas for working and your heart for beating or stroked your feet because they got you to the bus on time? The sad fact is, when our bodies work, we take them for granted, punish them and expect them to keep going. We don’t think about them until they go wrong. And when they do, we find it hard to think about anything else.

Of course, while being healthy doesn’t guarantee us a space on cloud nine, the subject is not quite so straightforward. When you feel good, you have the strength to chase dreams and seek out things that can bring happiness. And in the same way, when health problems strike, unhappiness can spread like a disease. Happiness and health are linked, but not in the way you might expect.

Just being healthy might not be enough to make most humans happy, but there are so many reasons why it should. I can’t say that I won’t take my health for granted again when the scars have faded and I can taste food once more, because I know I will. I am only human after all. So, I want to take this moment to thank my body for putting up a good fight when obstacles are thrown in its path. Having seen a lot of people less fortunate than myself over the last few months, I am grateful that I can sleep without pain, walk to the shops without collapsing and go home at the end of my treatments. I am lucky that I can enjoy a sunset, listen to birds in the garden and smell the dinner cooking in the oven. Right now, the thought of all that good health brings, is making me very happy indeed.

So today, raise a glass (of water) to good health. Let it buy you a moment of happiness. If you have it, grab it, hold it tight and don’t let it go. You never know when you might lose it. And, if you don’t, I pray that one day you will find it again.