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Health, Life & Hope

I'm a worrier, have been ever since a weekend when, as a teenager, my mom went away for a week's vacation and left me to my own devices at the house during the summer (every teenager's dream, right?). I became so nervous and upset being on my own, with not much to do and no one to do it with, that I developed severe stomach pains, and ended up having to see a doctor once mom got back. He wanted to give me an enema. I didn't know what that was. When the doctor explained it to me, I said thanks but no thanks, we left his office, and the stomach pains evaporated within a day. This is the power of the mind over the body.

So, yes, dear reader, I have a capacity to worry. Extensively. Sometimes, it's warranted, most times, it's not. I also get upset easily. This doesn't manifest itself in an outward surge of brutality or anything of that nature. More often, it's a sulk. A deep, brooding, sulk. A funk, if you will. This can be spurred-on by worry, walking hand-in-hand with it until they accomplish their goal of wearing me down into a funk. It's a hyper-sensitivity that I wish I didn't have, but there you go. It's sometimes a constant struggle to maintain a positive attitude, despite being on anti-depression medication.

The reason I mention these quirks of my personality is because, if one thing has helped with the whole issue of mental and emotional ups & downs, it's being ill. Last year, when I was dealing with thyroid cancer and its treatments and side effects, was a bit of an eye-opener and a re-set. And that was a rather mild form of cancer, to boot. Still, it accomplished what little else has over the years: a semi-permanent kick in the pants to really try and appreciate life.

The first time a change in perspective came into my view was when my father passed away. He'd been on oxygen toward the end of his bout with cancer, and had -- quite out of character for him -- complained of the pain he was in. After the visitation and the funeral, on a Monday & Tuesday, respectively, I was back to work on the Wednesday. That morning, we were given an overview on how to sell digital cameras to customers. I understood that this was the business we were in, but at that point in time, after my father had had trouble breathing and had finally been killed by the progression of cancer, the notion of selling digital cameras seemed rather absurd. Surely, this wasn't what life was supposed to be about?

Unfortunately, 'real life' creeps up on you. It overtakes you, and eventually you're enveloped in its urgency and importance. We have jobs to do, bills to pay, chores to perform, and then we're so worn out from all that, we barely have energy to do the 'fun' things. So it was, despite the lessons learned from my father's illness & death, it didn't take long to slip back into the rigors, worries and stresses of everyday life. But when it happens to you personally, well, it's different.

I keep in my head every day what the fear and uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis -- even of a mild cancer -- did to rock my world. I remember the anxiety it evoked -- real anxiety, not some self-pitying worry over a bad day at work, or how someone may have treated me. I remember being knocked on my ass after the surgery, of how my neck felt afterwards, of the trouble sleeping and all the problems that brought with it. I remember mine and Ashley's 10th anniversary, and how it was spent ingesting a radioactive iodine pill, and then having to shun myself away from men, women, children and pets for three days until I became less radioactive. I remember how it caused my jaw to hurt for several days, and how it de-activated my taste buds for a month. And, finally, I remember getting a full body scan, and getting the tentative 'all clear.'

The aforementioned events and situations seem to have had a lasting effect on me (so far, anyway). There's a different reaction in my mind whenever I get down, or upset. A little voice pipes-up at some point and reminds me, "It could be worse, you know. At least you've got your health."  And this is so very true. We often take our health for granted, until the time comes that we no longer have it. And I don't mean just a cold, or the flu. Eventually, as we get older, our bodies -- the best organic machines ever made -- begin to wear down. Parts go bad, things break more easily, and sometimes we're hit with a cascading systems failure.

As long as we've got our health, we've got options. Bad things can still happen, sure: Loved ones die, we may lose our jobs, money may be tight, homes may be lost, bad days come and go, and outlooks may look bleak. But with our health intact, those are just bumps in the road. We can carry on. When your health goes, however, or is in a precarious state, then that is when all bets are off.

So, yes, dear reader, I still worry. I still get stressed. I still get upset. But underneath it all for the last year or so has been a basin of calmness that has managed to permeate some of the depressive moments with the realization that -- knock on my wood -- I've got my health, and not take it for granted. To do so would be to look the gift horse of life squarely in the mouth.


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