Thursday, October 27, 2011


Gratitude is the antidote to bitterness and resentment. 
The more light you allow within you,
 the brighter the world you live in will be.  
                                                           Shakti Gawain

     I’ve been asked numerous times if I feel angry and bitter about my circumstances. Have I railed at God, or wished that I had not lived? Some people have even suggested that had they been the ones who had contracted my illness, they would not have wanted to live.

     Honestly, there have been moments when I’ve been angry about my circumstances. If I welcomed everything that has happened to me with open arms, I would either be living in the land of denial, or out and out lying to myself… and everyone else.  I am, after all, human.  I have felt tremendous loss and devastating sadness over these past fourteen years.  But I recognize that if I stay in the darkness of despair, I would never be able to live a full and complete life...a life filled with gratitude.

     I am well centered in my everyday reality. I know what I’m facing when I put my prosthetic legs on before I get out of bed each morning. And there are some days when soreness of my residual limbs or fatigue greets me, even before the prostheses go on. But the knowledge of having another day, being able to get up and face whatever the day holds, trumps the feelings of soreness and fatigue. Recognizing how close I came to not having a life feeds my feelings of gratitude, and enables me to live without bitterness and resentment.

     When my husband, Michael, was diagnosed with cancer—less than two years after my recovery and rehab—I honestly believed that he would live. Even though the oncologist was not optimistic about Michel’s chances, I felt that I had paid the karmic dues for my family. I was convinced that nothing bad would ever touch my family again. I was certain that Michael would have a positive outcome.  But as convinced as I was about his survival, the enormity of my dues paid was still not enough.

     After Michael died, I wrote a letter to everyone who had supported my family during the last stages of his life and subsequent death. It was undoubtedly the most devastating time of my life, and I was tremendously grateful for the support from family and friends. In my letter, I expressed my gratitude for their love, their presence in my life, and in the lives of my children.  I asked my mom to read my letter before I sent it out, wanting her feedback.  After reading it she gazed at me, almost in disbelief.

      “After all you’ve lost,” she began, her voice quivering with emotion, “how can you remain so positive?” 

     I shrugged my shoulders, and said “I guess I view it like this Mom. If I only looked at what I’ve lost, I’d never be able to see what I have.” 

     I’ll admit it.  I am one of “those (annoying) people” who wakes up every morning, grateful for another day. I figure that not only am I lucky to be alive to face my day, but I am lucky to have the choice of how I live each day.  If I chose to live surrounded by my losses, how could the light of hope ever come into my being—my soul? I readily choose that antidote to resentment and despair. I choose to see what I have, and feel darned grateful for it.

     Gratitude is a necessary tool in the Survivor’s tool kit. If you aren’t recognizing at least one thing every day, no matter how big or small, to be grateful for, then you’re not allowing the light of gratitude to brighten up your day. Believe me darkness is pervasive and can be devastating. But allowing even the tiniest ray of light into your life can lessen and often times eliminate the feelings of desperation and despair, especially if that “ray” comes in the form of gratitude.

     So if you find yourself feeling like your life is not a great place to be right now, try to find something in which you feel truly grateful.   When you begin to realize all that you have to be grateful for, the better your life will become. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Flying without Wings

      Faith is as simple or complex as you want to make it. It can simply be the belief that you will be here on this planet tomorrow, or it can be a complex belief system involving religion, philosophy, or a mixture of both.  Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing without having cold hard facts to support that confidence or trust.  Regardless of how you define “Faith”, it is necessary to have it, no matter what you’re facing. I have found that faith keeps my feet moving—one in front of the other, always forward, no matter what lies ahead.

     I have often felt that the fear of the unknown is the most powerful form of fear. We have all heard the old adage, “better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”  In other words, don’t move from the situation you’re in because you don’t know what may lay ahead, and it could be worse than what you have going on now. There is certainly comfort in the familiar, but there’s also complacency, boredom, and often times anxiety. 

     Fear can keep you paralyzed even in the worst of situations, but faith, the belief that things could be better can be your antidote.  It allows you the freedom to move, one foot in front of the other. It allows you to accept that no “devil” regardless of your familiarity, is worth knowing. 

      After being in the hospital for three plus months, the time had come for this baby bird to fly.  I had recovered, been put back together, and had no illness left to cure. I was ready to begin the new chapter of my life. “Getting out and getting on with it” became my battle cry. But as eager as I was to get into physical rehab, I was scared to death to leave the safety and familiarity of the hospital. I knew all of my nurses, and therapists. I knew what to expect every day and every evening. I even began to look forward to certain “menu” items provided by the hospital cafeteria. Being in the hospital long enough to know that Wednesday was “Lasagna day” was a pretty sad reality. Nonetheless, I still found security in my knowledge of what my everyday looked like.

      I began to express my fears about leaving the hospital to one of my nurses one evening. The words cascaded out of my quivering mouth. Everything, every fear that I was feeling did not go unannounced. After listening for several minutes…or more, he said that he had something that might help allay my fears. He would go to his car and get it for me during his break.

     He returned to my room a few hours later, and handed me a paper.  I began to read:
When we get to the edge of all the light we have,
 and take that step into the darkness of the unknown,
we must believe that one of two things will happen…
there will be something solid for us to stand on,
or we will be taught how to fly.    Anonymous

     That night I began to believe that even though my life had dramatically changed, and that the body I had come into this world owning had been dramatically altered, I actually would be alright.  That night I chose to welcome rehab wholeheartedly no matter what it entailed.  I decided that I didn’t want to know this “devil” anymore. I needed to leave the hospital. I also started to recognize that the devil which lay ahead was shrouded in my own self-doubt. And as it turned out, I did know the devil ahead of me. It was simply my own fear. I chose, that night, to embrace my faith, and not allow that “devil” to rule my life, and impede my forward motion.

     My nurse gave me something which I had needed for a long time…longer even than my hospital stay. He helped me believe in myself…to regain the faith that I so desperately needed.  He helped me sprout my wings. He helped me believe that I would be taught how to fly.

     Faith is an amazing tool to have in your Survivor’s toolbox. If you believe in yourself, the “devil you know,” will no longer be someone or something that you are willing to accept. Faith in yourself provides motion…always forward, especially when you’re unsure of what may be lying ahead of you. Your faith becomes your belief that no matter the circumstances, you will stand on solid ground, or like me, you will be taught how to fly.