Finding Gratitude While on Your Journey
- “Escape to the Country” reality TV star Jonnie Irwin, 49, says he’s grateful to celebrate his 50th birthday with his family after admitting he didn’t think he’d be around to see this joyous day.
- Irwin was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer that has since spread to his brain. He’s undergone treatment to manage his symptoms, including palliative (comfort) care.
- Since his diagnosis, Irwin has focused on creating cherished moments and lasting memories for his family, especially his three young children.
- Lung cancer is one of the most challenging cancers to deal with because, during its early stages, it’s often asymptomatic. Once the cancer has spread beyond the lungs, it becomes more difficult to treat. Often, X-rays can detect lung cancer by pinpointing unusual spots on scans.
- Gratitude means being thankful for what you have and showing appreciation for it. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, several studies have indicated that learning to live with gratitude can lead to more happiness and less stress.
- One way to exercise gratitude is to take time to think about things you appreciate every day. One way to exercise gratitude in your life includes writing down those things in a journal.
“Escape to the Country” star Jonnie Irwin, 50, is grateful to celebrate his 50th birthday with his family in a scenic getaway in Spain. The occasion comes just a week after being hospitalized from an infection, complications with his liver, and his ongoing battle with stage 4 lung cancer. The popular reality TV star expressed gratitude after admitting his family celebrated prematurely because they didn’t think he would make it to his milestone birthday.
View this post on InstagramRead MoreIrwin and his wife Jessica vacationed with their three young boys in Costa Del Sol. Irwin told Hello Magazine his family had his birthday party early because of his ongoing diagnosis.
“I had an early birthday party at the start of the year because I didn’t think I’d make it. It was like being in my own wake: lots of fun and dancing. But here I am. I view it as a complete triumph,” Irwin said.
Last week, Irwin battled an infection in the hospital. He said in an Instagram post that tests showed his health, including his living function, was improving, but he had more health-related issues to tend to in the coming weeks.
View this post on Instagram
“I’m feeling a bit better. I’m still slightly jaundiced,” he said just before boarding an airplane for Spain with his family.
Spending time with his family has been among Irwin’s top priorities since his stage 4 diagnosis. He wanted to create lasting positive memories for his wife and three young boys. His metastatic lung cancer battle has strengthened his sense of gratitude since his diagnosis a couple of years ago.
“Every little thing is so valuable to me, even kicking the ball against the wall for half an hour. Every little thing you take for granted means something to me. It’s another memory. It’s so special, and being away with my wife and the kids for my 50th is brilliant,” Irwin said.
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How Gratitude Can Change a Cancer Patient’s Outlook on Life
Many cancer patients who bravely shared their stories with SurvivorNet often talk about how grateful they are for the people and things that make them happy.
Gratitude means being thankful for what you have and showing appreciation for it. It’s a mindset that helps people going through tough times, and the experts SurvivorNet spoke with encourage cancer warriors and their loved ones to practice gratitude.
Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal cancer surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet that his patients who live with gratitude tend to handle treatment better because this attitude is one way to stay mentally healthy.
“The patients who do well with cancer live life with that kind of gratitude, but in terms of everything,” he explained. “They’re grateful, not for cancer, but they’re grateful for an opportunity to know that life is finite.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, several studies have indicated that learning to live with gratitude can lead to more happiness and less stress.
One way to exercise gratitude is to take time to think about things you appreciate every day. One way to exercise gratitude in your life includes writing down those things in a journal.
Irwin’s Cancer Journey
Jonnie Irwin’s cancer journey began when symptoms arrived in August 2020. His first symptom occurred during a filming trip when his vision blurred while driving. After he returned home, he was told he had metastatic lung cancer that had spread to his brain.
One of the most problematic parts of lung cancer is its lack of symptoms until the cancer has already spread, says SurvivorNet medical advisor Dr. Joseph Friedberg. However, once a person suspected of having lung cancer experiences symptoms, their doctor can further investigate the cause with an X-ray to look for anything unusual.
“The question is, well, what stage is it? And so, at this point, the entire workup is an effort to try and determine, do we think that the cancer is spread anywhere? And the things that you would ask for about lung cancer– specifically, any change in your breathing? Do you have a cough? Have you lost any weight? Do you have any pain anywhere? All of these things start to tick off in your head whether they have other potential problems,” Dr. Friedberg said.
We should note that we do not know the exact type of lung cancer Irwin has. However, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes up most lung cancer cases. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is less common.
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Irwin has since taken chemotherapy and other cancer drugs to help prolong his life.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you are in the middle of a cancer journey and are looking to improve your emotional health, consider what you’re grateful for. To begin, ask yourself the following questions to kickstart your journey to achieve gratitude.
- What can I do if I’m struggling to be thankful for what I have in my life?
- Are there local resources for people wishing to improve their mental health?
- What else can I do to help reduce my stress level during my cancer journey?