Attitude is Everything

“Why do you have to make such a big deal out of every decision?” My husband has asked me this question a zillion times in our 48 years of marriage. “Because I need to know EVERYTHING in order to make a decision,” is always my answer. I’m a detail person; I need to know all the angles, the how, why, what, if, good and bad of every situation. So, you can imagine how I’m handling all the details in dealing with my cancer. I have lit-up the message board to my doctor’s office asking questions. I’ve never had cancer or chemo before, and even though I went to “Chemo School”, many of the issues I’m having weren’t addressed there. I have no idea what to expect from my body or from the meds. Many of the side effects and symptoms are worrisome, unexpected and scary to me, which is what I explained to the invisible “cyber” person at the other end of the message board when I insisted on speaking to a real, live person. I was tired of getting prescriptions sent to the pharmacy with little or no explanations of why I needed them or what was going on with my body. No one had even asked me what was hurting me when I complained of pain, they just ordered pain pills.

Part of my reluctance to taking the pain meds was that I didn’t know why I was hurting. Finally, on Thursday, the doctor’s assistance called me. Woo hoo, a real, live person! When I explained to her that my entire torso was in agony she said, “Well, that tells me two things, the first is that you are healthy and you already have a lot of white blood cells, so the Neulasta has overloaded your bone marrow with white blood cells and they are acting like a log jam in your bones and causing the pain; and, the second thing is that the cancer cells are dying, which also causes pain as your body gets rid of them.” Well, why didn’t they tell me that in the first place? So, now that I’m privy to all the information, I’m obediently taking the meds, every four hours as prescribed, and feeling better. They don’t take all the pain away, and by the third hour the pain amps up again, but it’s nothing I can’t live with. I’m simply thrilled that most of the pain is gone.

Standing in front of the mirror as I was getting dressed this morning, I was talking to Jesus about all of the stuff that has gone on these past few days that had me on edge or aggravated. On Friday morning, I woke up and discovered a tick embedded in my shoulder; yes, a tick – on my shoulder, ewww! Then, I somehow managed to break the hinge that connects my new iPad to its keyboard that I really, really, love. And, last night, just as I finished the final sentence of my new blog post, my computer’s hard drive died – for good. As I stood there, spouting my litany of complaints to Jesus, I happened to look in the mirror at the picture of Jesus I have on the wall just behind me. I placed it there a long time ago because I wanted Jesus’ face to be one of the first things I see in the morning when I stand in front of the mirror getting dressed. Jesus has such a loving, compassionate look of understanding on his face in that picture, I could almost hear him gently saying to me, “Jeanne, why don’t you tell me what you’re thankful for.” So, I resigned to do just that; but, before I could even speak a word of gratitude, here came another of my mom’s songs playing in my head, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought that Jesus and my mom were double-teaming me. In my heart, I knew that they were right, an attitude of gratitude was just what I needed to counter my “woe is me” gloomy mood.

Counting my blessings, there was a lot to be thankful for. I was definitely thankful to be learning more about how the Chemo works and to be in less pain. I received a special gift, when I was at my lowest point last week. A package came in the mail from members of our staff. Each of them had traced their hands on craft foam and written a scripture passage on the hands, a passage they had chosen especially for me. Entwined together in a long string, all the hands will be going with me to my next Chemo Day. My dear friends holy hands to lay across me with Sacred words of Scripture to heal me.

I was also able to spend some quality time with my son and his children this past weekend. Being surrounded by family makes me feel better and doing things with them gives me something to do besides worry about myself. My granddaughter and I love feeding the fish and the turtles that inhabit our 1 1/2 acre pond. We even spotted the elusive 2 1/2 foot long resident snapping turtle who came up from the depths to snag a slice of bread and some floating fish pellets. Now, that was an exciting sighting!

After watching boxing on television, my husband, son, and grandson were huddled over some kind of knife sharpening skills they were demonstrating to one another – not my thing, but just having them there together was a blessing to me. Not to mention, I now have the sharpest knives in town!

Each day comes with its challenges, but among those challenges there are so many blessings. Some of the blessings come in the form of lessons. So much still to learn in life. I have a feeling that cancer is going to teach me a lot of lessons about myself, about letting go and letting God, about not knowing, and not doing, about steadfast love, and faithful friends, about family, faith, courage and fear. Today, at this moment, I feel confident that, with God at my side, I can face the coming challenges. I am also confident that on those days when my spirit begins to dim and my inner peace is disturbed, our Lord will send earthly “angels” to brighten my day and give me new hope, whatever the circumstances may be.

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