How to Philosophise with an Incurable Illness

Karl Jaspers made a monumental impact on both psychiatry and philosophy, though he remains unjustly neglected in the English-speaking world. He also suffered from an incurable illness. His description of how he dealt with this fact makes for inspiring reading:

One basic fact of my existence qualified all the decisions of my life: I was organically ill from childhood on (bronchiectasis and cardiac decompensation). I was eighteen ... when the correct diagnosis was made .... I read a treatise by Rudolf Virchow which described my ailment in every detail and gave the prognosis: in their thirties at the latest, these patients die of pyemia. I realized what mattered in treatment. I slowly learned the procedures, partly inventing them myself. They could not be carried out properly if I led the normal life of the healthy. If I wished to work, I had to risk what was harmful; if I wished to go on living, I had to observe a strict regimen and to avoid what was harmful. My existence passed between these poles. Frequent failures, by allowing fatigue to poison the body, were inevitable, and every time recovery was essential. The point was not to let concern about my illness turn the illness into the sum and substance of life. My task was to treat it properly almost without noticing it, and to keep working as if it did not exist. I had to adapt everything to it, without giving up to it. Time and again I made mistakes. The exigencies arising from my illness touched every hour and affected all my plans.
                                                                                                                                         — Karl Jaspers, 'Philosophical Autobiography'

Although we shall never know whether his methods can account for it, Jaspers exceeded medical expectation by about half a century, dying at the age of 86 in 1969. There are some affecting images by Thomas Hoepker that show the retort stand Jaspers used to hold his books so that he could continue reading during his periods of fatigue.