December 22, 2016
As the year ends, we’re once again grateful to those people who open their lives to us, sharing their struggles, triumphs, and lessons learned. Their wisdom can help guide all of us as we begin a new year.
If you have a story you’d like to share, please let us know.
I’m thankful that I …
1) … had the love of family.
Val hasn’t let anything stop her from achieving her goals. Her condition gave her a lifelong interest in medicine. Despite facing many challenges to her mobility, she put in the time and effort to become a pharmacist. Although she has worked hard to get there, Val knows her parents’ unwavering support made her journey possible.
My mom … and my dad have always fought for me to have the same opportunities that other kids had—for things to be accessible for me. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. I love my parents. They are the best.
2) … learned to be my own advocate.
Learning she had multiple sclerosis was scary for Bethany. She was upset when her care team pushed her exercise plan beyond what she felt she could handle. Although the decision to find new health care providers was a difficult one, it opened up a path to healing that worked for her.
You deserve the utmost respect and empathy from your medical professional. This is a journey they should be on with you, at your coattails—not pushing you, pulling you, or nowhere to be found. There is another doctor out there waiting to be fortunate enough to care for you. And you might just wonder why you didn’t make a change sooner.
3) … became a light in the darkness.
June’s sons, Joey and Luke, both have hemophilia. As they grew up, June watched them conceal their condition, trying hard to be “normal.” But sometimes their physical pain was too great to hide. June realized how deeply we’re conditioned to turn away from “brokenness.” She decided to work as a community advocate, supporting other hemophilia patients and their families so they wouldn’t have to feel the loneliness she’d once known.
We choose not to turn away from our patients’ pain. Instead, we enter into those painful and vulnerable places and say, “I am here to sit with you in the dark and lonely space until the feeling passes and the pain recedes.”
4) … was always more than my condition.
When Jacque was diagnosed with hepatitis C, she struggled with feelings of guilt and shame. She was afraid people would judge her by her condition. It took time for her to realize she was being much harsher toward herself than anyone else was.
Once I freed myself (through a lot of inner work), I felt relieved, as if a huge burden was lifted, even though I still had the disease. I felt I could be more open and honest when it was appropriate and not worry so much about what others might think. Now, I realize that it doesn’t matter, anyway; how I think of myself is the only thing that matters.
5) … let others help me.
After major surgery to fight breast cancer, Donna still needed to undergo many complex radiation treatments. After spending months determined to face her condition by herself, Donna realized she needed the love and support of her family along the way.
I was of the mindset that this was my journey and I had to face it alone. Perhaps if I had allowed others in, I wouldn’t have had those low thoughts and doubts during this leg of the treatment. … [My family members] all came with me to the last treatment and surrounded me with their love and support. This was an extremely emotional experience, and I couldn’t have been happier to be surrounded by my husband and children as I moved forward to the next phase: survivorship!
6) … had H.O.P.E.
Katie was working on her nursing degree when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After learning she had six months to live, Katie started writing her funeral plans. Her mother refused to accept the situation, searching for other treatments for her daughter. After finding another doctor, Katie got a new treatment plan—and with it, unexpected hope. Today, she urges her patients never to give up, no matter the situation.
Today, I continue to have hope. That’s what I’ve gotten out of all of this. Something I share with all of my patients: Always have hope. H.O.P.E.—Having Only Positive Expectations.
7) … gained strength from adversity.
Abby’s daughter Ellie was born without most of her small intestine. She was supposed to live less than one year. Today, Ellie is in fifth grade. Abby and her husband never thought their daughter could have this life. In helping her live it, they’ve gained strength and confidence to face whatever comes their way.
This is not a life we saw coming, but the experiences we have had made me and my husband better parents, stronger partners for each other, and a bit more prepared for what life can throw our way.
8) … embraced the power of positivity.
In her junior year of high school, Jessica was facing cancer—for the second time. Her relapse was heartbreaking, and with it came many rounds of chemotherapy, a stem-cell transplant, and daily trips to the hospital for bloodwork. Jessica wasn’t always feeling happy, but she didn’t let that stop her from going to each treatment with a smile.
The nurse told me that no matter how I felt, when she came in I’d be smiling, and sometimes that’s what it’s about: your attitude. Sometimes, what can make or break patients is their attitude. I live by this to this day.
9) … found unexpected blessings.
It was hard enough for Kathryn when her husband, Jun, was diagnosed with amyloidosis. When their daughter Tracy was told she had the same condition, it was almost too much to handle. But in learning to handle the difficult times, the family has gained strength from the many good things in their lives.
For five years, it seems that a cascade of bad luck has stalked us, but blessings and good luck have been right there all along. We have had compassionate care from world-class doctors, nurses, researchers, and pharmacy providers. That, plus our faith in God and the love and strength of family and friends, has carried us through.
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