Monday, August 20, 2012

(Give Up)
Perseverance is a great element of success.
 If you knock long enough and loud enough at the gate,
you are sure to wake up somebody.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

     I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember a 24 hour period of time, when everything went perfectly.  Even though there are more days than not, when I get out of bed with a whisper of hope on my lips, or even a loud proclamation about the gloriousness of the day; it never goes perfectly. There are always challenges, obstacles, or some other sort of interference to deal with or resolve.  I remember one such day, when everything that could go wrong went wrong.  

     I was the room mom for my son, Colin’s, fifth grade class.  It was the morning of the end of the semester holiday party. Colin and I were loading bags of porcelain cups filled with candies, teachers’ gifts, and food and games for the party scheduled for that afternoon, into our car.  After the third trip from the house to my car, I started one last time to go back into the house for my purse and keys.  Upon turning on my prosthetic leg, I found myself falling forward and landing on my very cold cement driveway.

     I rolled onto my side and sat up like a seasoned pro linebacker hardly realizing I was down, and spotted the lower half of my prosthesis with my foot attached, three feet away from the rest of me. Colin was terrified that I had hurt myself, and he was on the verge of tears.  I assured him that I was fine, and instructed him to get the Secretary’s chair out of my home office.

     The words of my Physical Rehab doctor, “Cindy you will need to make friends with your wheelchair,” were swimming around in my head.  I had not made friends with my wheelchair, and in fact two years after becoming a bi-lateral below the knee amputee, I donated my wheelchair to an organization that was in desperate need of one. My office chair had to suffice.

     With Colin and my neighbor’s help, I got into the chair, was pushed to my car, and transferred myself into the seat right behind the steering wheel. Luckily, it was my left foot that broke, and it was proudly sitting on the passenger seat right next to me. My right foot was securely in place exactly where it belonged, at the end of my right prosthetic leg working the gas and brake pedals.  We made it to school in plenty of time.  After arriving, I asked Colin to go get his teacher, and have her come help unload our car. I saw a friend in the parking lot, and waved her over. She and Colin’s teacher arrived at my car window at about the same time.

     “Can you help take some bags into the school?” I asked. “I broke my foot this morning and can’t get out of the car.”  They looked both shocked and concerned, but after sweeping my arm across the passenger seat pointing to my foot, Vanna White style, they began to laugh. “Oh my gosh, Cindy,” my friend said, “I forgot that you don’t have real feet.”  We all laughed and agreed it could have been worse... a real broken foot.  

      I called my prosthetist, Chris, on my cell phone, and left a message explaining my predicament. I wondered if he could fix my leg quickly and easily. I started the engine to begin the trek to Chris’s office, in downtown Denver. When I turned my key, I found that I was “riding on empty.”  Rolling my eyes, and shaking my head, I wondered if this day, which had just barely started, could get much worse. I then remembered that there was a service station only a few blocks from the school. There was an auto repair garage attached to the station, and hoped that someone would be there to pump gas for me. It was still early in the morning. Most places had not yet opened.

     I drove into the station and up to the garage doors. The doors were closed, but I could see people moving around inside the garage. I began to honk my horn. As I waited for a warm body to emerge, I tried to reach Chris again. Bingo! I got him on the second ring. He could not believe what had happened. After assuring him that my left foot was indeed my passenger, he told me to come to his office as soon as I could get there, and to call him on my cell phone when I arrived. He would meet me at my car. And good news, he could fix my leg.

     Finally, after several toots of the horn, a grouchy looking guy came out of the garage, obviously not thrilled to have been beckoned in such a rude manner. I rolled down my window, and began to explain that I had broken my foot earlier that morning and needed his assistance at the gas pump.

     “You broke your foot?” As he looked into my car, I once again swept my arm across my seat where my left foot sat. He looked down at my legs, and literally laughed out loud, “Well there’s somethin’ ya don’t see every day.” He pumped my gas, while chuckling to himself and shaking his head.

      On my way to Chris’s office, I was listening to the radio and heard something that I felt compelled to impart to a friend of mine, immediately. I called him and during our two minute conversation, my phone died. I was out of battery power. I wondered how I was going to let Chris know when I arrived.

     As I turned into the parking lot by Chris’s office, he came out. Fortunately he had been watching for me. He took my foot and the rest of my left leg into his office. Ten minutes later he emerged with my left leg—foot intact.  I put on my leg, and hopped out of the car. He tweaked my alignment a bit, as I walked around the parking lot. I left his office and drove straight for the grocery store to stock up on groceries readying myself and my family for the ensuing snow storm, predicted to start the next day.

     After unloading the groceries and putting them away I sat down at my kitchen table, with a cup of coffee. I looked up at the clock, and began laughing. It was not yet ten o’clock. I could not believe all the events that had unfolded in such a short amount of time. But even more astounding was that any part of my morning could have been catastrophic. Had I given up at any point as each obstacle presented itself, I would have never been able to find the help I needed to get me back up on both feet.  

     Sometimes it’s the NEVER giving up, the perseverance which brings about success. When you knock long and loud enough, the person you awaken could very well be the survivor within you.

      And by the way, I made it to the 5th grade Holiday party that afternoon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Miraculous Life

     It has been eleven years since my husband, Michael, died. On July 4th, 2001, my beautiful man left this earth to the booming magnificent accompaniment of fireworks. He always loved the 4th of July, often proclaiming that it and Valentine’s Day were his favorite holidays. Fireworks and romance…I was one lucky woman!

     I remember the moment we got the news that Michael had cancer. The intense clarity is something to behold from a woman who most days cannot remember much of the previous ones.  I recall what everyone said, the clothes we were wearing, and the intense burning nausea which rendered me weak when strength was required and useless when help was so needed. All I could think was “why?” 

     I honestly believed that after all I had been through, living through a death sentence, losing my limbs, and having to find a new “me” in the midst of disabilities; I had proven myself a survivor. Had I not come out of the darkness with my head held high, promising to be the best person I could possibly be? Had I not personally sacrificed enough to spare the people I loved?  

     I had been told that I was a living miracle, that I had overcome my Dr.’s proclamation of “no hope.” So, why, after pulling through, dodging the big guns, did my beloved husband have to bear his own prognosis of no hope?  And yet, there we were sitting in the Dr.’s office, eyes downcast, shaking our heads in disbelief. We were dealing with another low blow…this one lower than I could have ever imagined. The thought of life without Michael destroyed my sense of natural order. What happened to growing old together and gently fading away after a long fulfilling life?

     Michael’s diagnosis sent me into an emotional cyclone. My emotions were whirling around me so intensely and so quickly, that I couldn’t breathe let alone think. But he needed an anchor. It was my turn to help him weather this storm, as he had helped me just a few years earlier. I choked back the tears, planted my fake feet on solid ground, and prayed for another miracle.  

      Michael and I began to talk about what had happened to us over the past few years. We even chuckled in disbelief…the irony of our situation. One life spared—another life taken….tit for tat? But when we discussed our circumstances seriously, desperately trying to make sense of it all, we concluded that we were paying our dues to spare our children. By taking on our own personal natural disasters—all that we had weathered thus far, we believed our children would be unscathed by the world of disease. I have to admit that our magical thinking got us through a multitude of storms.

     It took me awhile, after Michael’s death, to learn how to breathe again.  I sought out my survivor self, my children in tow, and emerged from the inferno of despair. It was then when I began to realize how miraculous my life truly was. Had I died, my children would have to grow up without parents…no one to love them like I could.  It was my children who promoted my healing, and who demanded my full attention. It was their miraculous lives which brought me back to the land of the living.

     Through the years I have come to understand that in spite of what curses us or blesses us, we are all miraculous. Recognition of that knowledge provides the foundation for breathing when life sucks the air out of us.  When you believe in the miracle of your own life, it is impossible to be disparaging of your living.  When you believe in the miracle of your own life, living becomes purposeful and your own diagnosis of “no hope” becomes non-existent.
     Believing in your own miraculous life is essential to the survivor within you.  When you acknowledge that amazing miracle in front of you, your own reflection in the mirror each morning, you are assured an amazing day…a day worthy of a miracle!

Monday, June 4, 2012


     I was standing in the middle of a field with my husband and two little boys. It was a gloriously warm autumn day, and we were surrounded by pumpkins which were graciously sacrificing themselves to become our Jack-O-Lanterns.  My boys were energetically discussing the pros and cons of every pumpkin within eye sight.  I was caught up in this magical moment, as I watched my two precious children in their animated discussion of these enormous gourds. The enthusiasm of their living brought on an unexpected and spontaneous eruption of emotion in me. 

     It had been less than a year before that I had been battling for my own life, having survived a deadly form of a Strep A bacterial infection, commonly known as “the flesh eating bacteria.” Understanding how privileged and how blessed I was to be able to witness my children’s laughter brought me to tears. As I bent down to look at the orange globes of their affection, I heard someone calling my name.

     “Cindy…Cindy,” I heard my name wafting over the hundreds of people collected in this field with the same intent as my own.  I looked up and saw a beautiful blonde woman, arms outstretched, smile beaming lighting up her flawless face, bounding over dozens of pumpkins in the effort of reaching me.  She embraced me with such enthusiasm that she nearly knocked me off my feet. 

     I was standing on uneven ground, and knocking me down was a much easier proposition than my trying to keep upright. The bacterial infection which almost took my life, managed instead to take parts of me. The lower portions of my legs, my right hand, and the left half of my chest had all fallen victim to this devastating illness. Still a bit shaky on the fake feet at the end of my prosthetic legs, I managed to keep my balance and remained standing.

     I hugged my beautiful beckoner, Arlis, with all my might, not sure if I was ready to let her go. She was one of my nurses, and was the one who took care of me the night I came to her Intensive Care Unit on the Flight for Life helicopter. She stayed with me for twelve solid hours that first night of my arrival, only leaving me when she absolutely had to do something outside of my room.

     “Oh Cindy, I can’t believe it’s you! You look great.” Both of us were bawling at our unforeseen yet fortuitous reunion.  “This is a true miracle,” she began, “I was so scared that night you came into the ICU. Everyone had done what they could for you, and in fact the doctors were giving you a less than one percent chance to make it through that night. But ya know what, Cindy; I could feel your fight. Your will to live was palpable. I wasn’t about to let you die...not on my watch.”

     We dried our tears, quickly caught up on each others' lives, and made promises to stay in touch, before my two little pumpkin procurers were ready to leave the pumpkin patch. 

      On the way home, I began to think about Arils’s words. I thought about how I had survived a death sentence, and began to understand how I beat the odds. The reasons were sitting in this very car with me. Three men, two under the age of four and a half had thrown me a life line. They were the ones pulling me out of the darkness and back to them—back into the light of their lives... of all of our lives.  It was my guys, my two little boys and my husband, who provided me the impetus...the will to not give up.  

     My two little lifelines, in flesh and blood, were clutching their pumpkins, and singing spooky Halloween music at the top of their lungs. The other was humming along driving the car.

     Lifelines are necessary tools in the Survivor’s tool kit. Knowing who or what that lifeline(s) is, is invaluable knowledge. Your lifelines can come in all shapes, sizes, and forms.  It matters not what you choose (or what chooses you) to be your lifeline.  What matters is that you have one, recognize it, and allow it to pull you out of the darkness, and into the light.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kindly Be Kind

“Kindness is the act or the state of being kind, being marked by good and charitable behavior, pleasant disposition, and concern for others.”  Wikipedia, a free dictionary

     I was most likely in the middle of a diatribe; dissing someone who, at the moment, had fallen into my disfavor. My moaning and groaning was apparently assaulting my dad’s ears. He sighed, put down the paper, and looked at me with disappointment and sadness.

      I would have rather been smacked than to have incurred one of Dad’s disapproving glances.“You know,” he began, “when someone tells you that you’re kind, it is the best compliment you can ever hope to get.” He picked up his paper and continued reading.  Bull’s-eye!  His words, although sparse, hit exactly where he had intended…right on my heart. The message was clear; “Would it hurt you to be kind?”

      My father was a wise man. He often likened himself to the immortal cowboy philosopher and humorist, Will Rogers. Using Roger’s own words, my father would exclaim, “I’ve never met a man (person) I didn’t like.” My dad meant every word.  I tried at the age of 15 to embrace that philosophy too. But it wasn’t easy for me.

      I don’t ever recall my dad being unkind or critical of himself or others.   He took people at face value, and he got burned once in awhile.  But when he did, he did not berate himself for being unwise or naive. He just assumed that the person who had burned him did so out of necessity, not out of malice. It never occurred to him that people just plain chose to be unkind.

      As I think about my dad’s words of wisdom, I know that by virtue, he was a kind gentle man, with a pleasant disposition. He was charitable in his deeds as well as in his words. He was the man whom many came to for many things. He played with the neighborhood kids, he loaned money as well as advice. He had many friends of his own, and was highly respected in our community.  One of the elderly ladies in my home town told me that my dad’s funeral was one of the “best attended” of any funeral she had ever been to—high praise from a regular funeral attendee.  No doubt that it was true, as my father “never met a person he didn’t like.”

      As I have become older, and hopefully wiser, I have come to realize that kindness begins at home, with the very person who needs it the most…you.  But it’s hard to be kind when you are your own worst critic.  In my own life, I have found that in order to be genuinely kind to others, it is imperative to be kind to myself.

      I also know that there are benefits to being kind.  I find when I look at myself, as well as others, through kind non-critical eyes, my heart rate remains calm, my blood pressure doesn’t rise, and I obtain a sense of well being. I smile more often than not, and value my life and others’ a little more.  

      When I look at myself in the mirror, I try not to see the wrinkles and the double chin. I rest upon my eyes mostly, and acknowledge the kindness in them.  And when other people don’t act or say the things that I would do or say, I try hard not to judge. I believe, like my father, that most people behave the way they do out of necessity.   

     The physiological effects of kindness are valuable to a survivor. The philosophical awareness of kindness is equally as valuable.  Kindness is a choice. It is a state of mind. It is far better to handle difficult people and situations through kindness, because when you have a sense of well being—a nice steady heart beat, and a cool head—those situations are more easily solved. That “difficult” person may just turn into someone you actually like. Pretty soon you may even become a Will Rogers, or a Claude Charlton--”never  met a person…”

Monday, March 5, 2012

Unlock the Joy

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
Helen Keller

     Joy is the spirit warmer. It’s the rumble of a finely tuned engine, the purr of the contented soul. Joy and happiness are true companions. Joy sparks the celebration of happiness, which overtly erupts, often with varying degrees of magnitude.  Joy, on the other hand can be quiet. It is the inner-workings of contentment—a completeness of soul. 

     I was speaking at a seminar awhile ago about my experiences with a devastating illness, followed by my beloved husband, Michael’s, death.  I was addressing the fact that in spite of my losses, I valued my life, and found joy in my living.

     After I was through speaking I engaged in a Q &A session with the audience.  A question was asked that gave me a little pause, and has fueled my introspection and self evaluation of “joy” ever since.  The question was, “Were you born with your glass half full?”  My honest answer was and still is, “Yes.”  The questioner looked at me with an “I thought as much” smug expression.  At the risk of filling the remainder of the hour with a fundamental discussion on the ups and downs of partially filled glasses, I let the “Q” and the “A” hang in the air.

     I left that meeting contemplating on the whole “glass half full/half empty” concept.  Was that why I was able to withstand all the trauma and tragedy which claimed my life for ten years? Is that why I can live with the fallout from those events with relative ease, just because of a half filled glass?  And what about others who consider their “glass half empty?” Could they have endured what I have endured, and come out of it as I have? My honest answer was and still is “yes!”

     The prime example, at least in my mind is Helen Keller. When Helen Keller was less than two years old, she contracted an illness which left her profoundly deaf, and completely blind. She had not yet learned to speak, and consequently had no language skills. 

      From the time she was 19 months old, Helen Keller existed in a sightless, soundless world. She merely existed until someone provided her the key to unlock the gate of the world in which she lived.  And just like everyone else in this world, she held the key to her own happiness. She found the joy in her being, in her soul. I don’t believe that she was taught how to be joyful. I believe, like any emotion, it was innate to her humanity. Was she born with her “glass half full?”

     The fact of the matter is this. It has never been as difficult for me to connect with my joyous spirit, as it has been for some people, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have one. Sometimes you have to search for the key to unlock the joy which resides deep in your soul. Sometimes it’s merely the willingness to look for the key which enables you to feel the joy inside of you.

     Joy is a necessary tool for the survivor’s toolbox.  Without allowing your joy to emerge, the happiness you experience is short lived, and hard to come by. Without joy, the sunrises and sunsets are simply the movement of objects in space...there is no peace or beauty associated with them.  There is no jumping to your feet in applause, or a melting of your heart by a smile.  Joy counterbalances the “sad” and the “hard.” It is the substance that makes you glad to wake up each morning.

     I agree with Helen Keller.  Joy is the antidote to despair. When you find the key and allow yourself to unlock your joy, “…your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” And your soul will purr like a finely tuned engine.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Intestinal fortitude

      When I was in Jr. High, I had a choir director who, upon wanting more volume and a fuller richer sound would instruct, “come on girls, dig deep…give it everything you’ve got!” His arm would rise up in the air shaking at the apex of the crescendo, as if he could raise our voices with his arm, shaking the sound out of us with the intensity of his hand. He would raise his voice with his arm, “use your… “.  At the risk of offending our sweet young ears, he would refrain from saying the word “guts,” and rely instead on his choice phrase, “intestinal fortitude.” I came to understand that intestinal fortitude was something you had to dig deep within yourself to find, especially when you had to “sing” full on and raise your volume.

     I have been one of those lucky people, who has had no problem with raising my volume, or singing full on when the opportunity to do so arises. But when I found myself in a very lonely and vulnerable place, walking out of an able-body in an able-bodied world, and into a disabled body in an able-bodied world, my voice became dramatically muted. 

      It was a terrifying reality, for me, having to depend on other people to provide everything I needed and wanted.  I had never before depended on anyone for anything, and now, after having three of my limbs amputated; I was entering a physical rehab facility unable even to sit in a wheelchair for more than an hour at a time. My dependency on others was overwhelming, humbling, and left me feeling powerless, and damaged.  My voice was becoming weaker with every passing moment, becoming so quiet that it was almost inaudible.

     I was in a long-term rehabilitation facility.  It took me less than 24 hours in that facility to recognize that I was one of the lucky ones. My body was dramatically and permanently altered, but I still had the brain that I entered into this world owning.  Many of the other people in this facility had sustained severe traumatic brain injuries. Their situations were far more critical, far more devastating than my own.  The desperation and despair in my new “home” was pervasive.  And I felt myself slipping under that oppressive and destructive spell—my voice becoming softer with each passing day.

     I was in my room, watching the nightly news one evening, when a nurse came in to give me my night time medications.  As she poured the potpourri of pills into my hand, I noticed that they did not look like the ones I normally took. When I questioned her about the pills, she insisted that these were my pills. “You’re mistaken” she casually said, waiting for me to pop the unknown meds into my mouth and swallow.  I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise. I was terrified to take these pills not knowing what they were, or what they would do to me.

     “Dig deep,” I heard my choir director say, “use your full voice and give me volume!”  I shook my head, and adamantly refused to take those pills.  I demanded to know the names of each medication. I knew what I was taking, and I knew what every pill entering my body was intended to do. I also knew that these were not my pills.  Much to my surprise…and dismay, she could not tell me what the medications were. I told her that I wanted to see the nurse who was in charge.  

     When the new nurse came in, she had my meds—the correct ones, and an apology for the “mistake.”  I asked her how many others had been given the wrong medications, knowing that the majority of the patients on my floor would not be able to recognize what medications they were getting. She shrugged, and stated that “they” would sort it out. It left me wondering how many gravely disabled people had been given the wrong medications.

     The following day, I spoke to my physical therapist about the mistake. He shook his head sadly, and murmured that it probably wasn’t this first time something like this had happened.  “What?” Not only was I incredulous but I was furious.   I dug deep, and increased my volume, and began to “sing” as loud as I could. I went to the director of nursing and told her about the incident, and I lodged a formal complaint with the chief administrator of the facility.  

     I began my crescendo the night I got the wrong pills. I hit the apex of that crescendo when I signed my name to the formal complaint.  It took every ounce of my intestinal fortitude to sing full on the day “Cindy Charlton” was signed on the “dotted line.” I didn’t know if there would be retribution for my actions. When you’re dependent on strangers for your care—inept ones at that, retribution can be a very real threat. Not saying anything, however, and allowing the possible endangerment of others who could not sing at all, was not an option for me. I had to sing and sing loud, regardless of the personal cost.

     I left rehab several weeks later, a neophyte on my new prosthetic legs, a hook for a right hand, and my voice stronger than ever. My intestinal fortitude was once again well established…maybe even stronger than before. I found that not only could I sing for myself, but I could sing for others who no longer had a voice.

     Intestinal fortitude is a necessary tool in the survivor’s tool kit. Sometimes, when you are the most fearful and afraid to sing, remember to dig deep and sing full on no matter the consequences.  You may shake with the increasing crescendo, but when you get to the height of your voice, you will realize that there is no better gift than to find your own personal power…your intestinal fortitude.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

(How Much Do you Have?)

     I’ve been thinking about this installment of the Survivor’s Handbook for quite some time. The sheer vastness of the concept of “hope” literally overwhelms me, in spite of being a naturally hopeful person.  

     We use the word “hope” in our everyday vernacular, “…hope and dreams,”  “…hopeful for; “   we “lend hope,” “give hope,” and both “gain” and “lose hope.”  Every great person, from Aristotle to the Dalai Lama, has at least one quote with the word “hope” in it.  In fact, thirty-five of our fifty States have at least one town with “hope” as part of the name. 

      I was watching the Denver Bronco/ Pittsburgh Steelers football game today, (yes I’m a huge Bronco’s fan, and was very hopeful for a win.) I heard one of the commentator's talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, playing with an injured ankle.  The commentator had asked Roethlisberger if the ankle injury was lessening his hope for a victory.   I don’t remember the exact wording of his response, but the gist was that “hope drives away the fear of defeat.”

     And he’s right! When you have hope, there is no room for fear of defeat—no room for fear period. But one of the best things I have learned about hope over these past fifteen years is that “hope” actually sustains life. 

     After my husband, Michael, was diagnosed with the deadly and extremely rare form of cancer, Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma, we looked up the disease on the internet.  What we read was exceedingly bleak and terrifying.  Survival of this cancer was non-existent according to the internet information. 
     Michael did not believe, from the get go, that his illness was going to take him down.  He had tremendous hope that he would “beat” this vicious disease. 

      The oncologist was plain spoken about Michael’s chances of survival.  He told us that he knew of one other patient who had lived five years after diagnosis—the magic bench mark of survival in the world of cancer. But this patient’s cancer had been diagnosed at an earlier stage than Michael’s had.  When we got the diagnosis, Michael was at stage IV…the last, the deadliest stage.

     After leaving the oncologist’s office with that news, my naturally optimistic and hopeful nature was overrun with despair. I felt as if I was wearing doom as a restrictive and smothering overcoat that I could not shed. Michael, on the other hand, was certain he was going to survive this cancer. He had enough hope for us both.

     Michael continued to be filled with hope. He went through toxic rounds of chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. His doctor told us that he was going to throw everything he had in his arsenal at Michael, in the hopes that something would help. The bottom line was that the cancer was rare, and there was no known cure. They didn’t even know how to treat it. But Michael, ever the hopeful, surged on through the devastation of modern medicine, certain that he would be cured.

     “Your health belies what I’m seeing in the CT scans Michael,” the oncologist reported one sunny spring day.  “I don’t know how you’re doing it, but whatever you’re doing keep it up.” What Michael was doing was remaining committed to the belief that he would beat the cancer. He was undeniably filled with hope.

     As the year progressed, I could see that Michael was beginning to struggle. Once strong and fit, he began to lose strength in his legs. His complexion was no longer the rich olive tone of his healthier years, and his once beautiful thick black shiny mane was replaced with white and baby fine wisps of hair—the hard-hearted effects of chemo therapy.  Nonetheless, He remained as committed as ever to the fact that he was going to survive. He did not give up his hope… although it had changed. Now, uncertain that he would beat this cancer on his own, Michael was hopeful that the medical community would come through for him—that a treatment or cure would be found before he died.

     The last doctor’s appointment we went to was no longer filled with optimistic talk, or shaking of heads in disbelief. It had become obvious, that Michael’s health no longer belied what the oncologist was seeing on film.  “You don’t have long Michael,” the doctor said. “You need to go home and tell your children.” Michael lost all hope that day. He died less than a week later.

     I believe that Michael’s hope gave him an extra year with us. He wasn’t ready to give up, to lose his hope. And just like Ben Roethlisberger, Michael’s hope drove away the fear of defeat. We were all—my children, myself, and everyone else who loved Michael, benefactors of Michael’s hope. His sheer refusal to give up on himself gave us all an extra year with him.

     Hope is an essential tool in the Survivor’s tool kit. It drives the bus of determination, and chases away anxiety and defeat. It strips off the overwhelmingly restrictive overcoat of doom, and replaces it with light and freedom. It can be life sustaining and it can even give us the greatest gift we could ever imagine… time with those we love the most.