That lymphoma diagnosis was TEN years ago, and I am
still here, leading a productive and happy—yes, happy—life.” ~ Carol
“I sat at home, staring out the window, feeling paralyzed by my loss.”
“I had had a miscarriage and felt totally lost and alone (before my diagnosis with nhl). I was depressed and also furious with myself for feeling that way. I had three perfectly fine children, and I knew there were many in this world who wanted--but could not have--children. I felt extremely guilty for feeling such self-pity, but I could not turn it off.
“A very wise friend happened to visit me, and he said something that day that later sustained me throughout my ten years of living with lymphoma.
“He said, ‘Carol, if you had a leg amputated, would it help you at all to know that somewhere out there was a person who had lost both their legs? Would that take away the pain of being left with only one leg?’
“Well, no, someone else’s tragedy wouldn’t help me with my feelings at all. My pain was real, the hurt and confusion were real, my fears were real. I could only handle them as best I was able, and I did not have to beat myself up about being afraid, or hurting. His wisdom helped me cope with my miscarriage and what he told me held just as true when I was diagnosed with nhl a few years later.
“Did you notice the best part of this story, dear reader? That lymphoma diagnosis was TEN years ago, and I am still here, leading a productive and happy—yes, happy—life.” Carol
“I looked into my bathroom mirror, and what I saw was my bare skull, staring out at me.”
“It was winter, and I had been house-bound by the weather and slippery streets, as well as by the side effects from my lymphoma treatments. My sadness was so deep that I really did envision that skull in the
mirror - it really happened. I believed in God, yet I felt on that day that there was no hope. I somehow saw in that skull a statement that all of my beliefs were false...that there is no God and that how we behave toward others, how we act with kindness and honesty and truth, made no difference whatsoever in the grand scheme of things--because there was no purpose to life or to anything we do with our lives.
”I just couldn't take the despair I was feeling. I had had a mental vision of dying, and then finding out that there was nothing more. That there was no meaning to life itself--that there was no deeper reason for being. That there was no reason for me to care about how I lived my daily life.
“I confided this ‘crisis of faith’ to a clergy friend who visited me that day. I felt like a complete idiot to repeat such a story, but I was truly desperate for some kind of answer. He said the words that have sustained me through ten years of both good days and difficult days in living with incurable lymphoma.
“He said, ‘Carol, no one can scientifically prove that there is life after death, but we do have choices about how to live our lives while we are here on earth. Even if you found out—in one blinding flash at the moment of death—that there is no hereafter, WOULD YOU HAVE WANTED TO LIVE YOUR LIFE ANY OTHER WAY THAN AS YOU HAVE—WITH HOPE AND FAITH AND MEANING IN EVERYTHING YOU DO AS A HUMAN BEING?’
“Wow. That was it. No, I wouldn’t want to live any other way. No matter what.
I wanted to continue living with as much optimism as possible, making my life as meaningful as possible, no matter its length. It was that simple.
“That day I discovered for myself that attitude matters. Living a hope-filled life is a better way to live—each day that I have—rather than to live a life of fear.
Can I always feel hope? No. Can I usually feel hope, and even spread some out there for others? Yes. Does that give me a degree of peace and purpose to my life? Yes.” Carol