Great day to be alive
`We can't always do anything about the `things' going on in our lives. But the one thing we can change and do something about, is our attitude and how we choose to deal with it.'
THERE are many things that can help people get through times of adversity: faith, hope, family, friendships, passion, purpose, laughter. But perhaps there is nothing more powerful than the power of positive thinking that motivates us to continue, no matter what type of challenges we are facing.
My youngest brother, James, was born with a congenital kidney defect. My parents were told he would never live to be a 10-year-old. By the time he was five he had undergone 23 major surgeries.
James was seven, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38 and he was 11, when she died at 42. He miraculously managed to go on living with my father, until ... the night before my father was scheduled to retire from his 30-year-old medical practice, my father died of a massive heart attack on New Year's Eve.
Within days of my father's death, James had total kidney failure and went on dialysis. Once again, miraculously he managed to stay on dialysis for seven years, and reached his 34th birthday. Within days of James' birthday, I got a phone call that he was in the hospital. "Christine, you aren't going to believe what happened to me! I was walking around my apartment, and my hip broke! They've put a pin in it, and I'll be in the hospital for a couple of weeks doing some physical therapy."
About a week later, I got the second phone call. "Christine, you're really not going to believe what happened to me this time. I was just lying in my hospital bed, and my other hip broke! They had to do double hip replacement surgery, and I'll still be in the hospital for awhile doing physical therapy."
Another week later, I got the third phone call... "OK, Christine, you better be sitting down for this one. I was in the hospital doing my physical therapy, and I had all the weight of my upper body on my crutches, when my elbow just shattered and broke! They've done a complete physical work-up on me discovered a brain aneurysm and a tumour the size of a baseball on my pituitary gland."
I was in the middle of my own cancer treatments while all of this was going on. I truly had to stop and think to myself. "If that were me ... after everything he has been through, I would want them to just take me outside and shoot me! What more could possibly happen to this young men?"
Well, they operated on the brain aneurysm. They put him on some medication that shrunk the tumour, and it was benign. He got through all of his physical therapy and was actually discharged from the hospital. And five days after James was discharged, he got a telephone call that after all of these years, they had finally found a match for his kidney.
So, six years ago James underwent a successful kidney transplant. And one the night of his surgery, I put a call in to the hospital, not knowing if he would be coherent, or if they'd even let me speak to me. But they patched me through. And the first words out of James mouth were: "Christine, isn't this a great day to be alive?"
This coming April, James will celebrate his seventh anniversary as a kidney transplant patient. We all have things going on in our lives. It doesn't have to be cancer, or kidney disease. Perhaps it is another form of chronic illness. Maybe it's divorce, the loss of our job, the death of a loved one or environmental catastrophes. We can't always do anything about that "thing" in our live... I can never go back and change the fact that I got cancer.
But the one thing we can change and do something about, is our attitude and how we choose to deal with that "thing" in our life on an on-going basis. The poet Robert Frost once wrote, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." May your life go on with faith, family, friends, a positive attitude and oh, by the way, don't forget to laugh!
CHRISTINE K. CLIFFORD
The writer is CEO/President of The Cancer Club and author of Not Now... I'm Having a No Hair Day!, Our Family Has Cancer, Too! and her newest book, Inspiring Breakthrough Secrets to Live Your Dreams. E-mail: Christine@cancerclub.com. Website: www.cancerclub.com
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