Sunday, November 17, 2013

Grateful for Cancer

Life is a “bitter-sweet” experience.  We have both good and bad experiences.  Because of the bad we can know and appreciate the good.  I have learned if I choose, I can even find sweetness in the bitter. 

When you are struggling with trials, it can be very difficult to find something to be grateful for.  In fact, sometimes you don’t even feel grateful for the obvious or “sweet” things such as family, friends, food to eat, clothing, a warm home, a good job, children, etc… Not because you aren’t grateful, you just don’t think to be grateful. 

Being grateful requires action.  You must think about it. You do not realize you are grateful, unless you take time to analyze the situation and realize there is something to be grateful for.  

Gratitude and optimism go hand in hand.  When I was a young girl, I can remember watching the Disney movie “Pollyanna”.  I loved that movie!  The movie was based on the book “Pollyanna”, written by Eleanor Porter in 1913.  I haven’t watched it in years, but I ordered the book and DVD on amazon yesterday so I can read the book and watch the DVD with my girls.

"Pollyanna" is a story about an 11-year-old girl who has an optimistic attitude about life. After her father's death, Pollyanna goes to live with her wealthy but bitter aunt, Miss Polly. Miss Polly is a stern disciplinarian, who frowns upon open windows and banging doors. Pollyanna has great enthusiasm for life because of her positive attitude.  Because of her attitude, she manages to change the lives of the people around her, including her aunt and other cynical people.

Pollyanna maintains her optimistic attitude by playing a game her father created called "The Glad Game".  This game came about when Pollyanna, the child of missionaries, was hoping for a doll to arrive for her for Christmas in the missionary barrel.  Instead, when the barrel finally arrived, it contained only a pair of crutches.  Her wise father immediately made up the Glad Game, teaching her that they must choose to focus on the positive, and be glad about the crutches – be glad because they didn’t need to use them!

One of many profound conversations that takes place in the movie is when Pollyanna stumbles upon her pastor as he is practicing one of his typical condemning sermons for the congregation:

POLLYANNA: There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that?
REVEREND: No, I didn’t know that.
POLLYANNA: Yes, well there are. And do you know, my father said that if GOD took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.

Being glad, isn’t that what gratitude really is? When Paul was in the middle of his cancer treatments, I realized I needed to figure out a way to remember to be grateful.  So I created a gratitude board.  I decided we needed to play the gratitude game.  Honestly, some days we were just grateful for toothpaste or toilet paper, but I can guarantee we were almost always able to find things to be grateful for!  
Gratitude Board

During Paul’s cancer journey, I know that we struggled to be grateful at times.  There was just so much to deal with.  Being grateful is not always easy.  Often times you have to dig deep within your soul to find gratitude. While reading past blog posts, I found this, I pray daily that Paul’s cancer will not return.  I pray daily that I will be strong enough to handle what comes our way.  I pray daily that Heavenly Father will forgive me for not always being as grateful as I should be. I do know that it is so important to be grateful for even the small things, but sometimes you just feel a little like having a pity party.  We really have been blessed throughout this whole ordeal.  God has given us amazing family and friends who constantly are supporting us and lifting us up.” 

I was happy to see that at the end of my statement I still managed to find something to be grateful for!

As I was reading through my past blog posts I came across one titled, “Trying to make sweet lemonade…” I would like to share an excerpt from that post:

“I have been thinking a lot about the phrase, ”When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  What does that really mean?  I visualize the lemons as things like cancer, someone losing their job, death, unexpected tragedies, etc.  But what is the sugar that sweetens the lemonade?  After all, lemonade needs to be sweetened with something or it can be very bitter and not really that delightful to drink.

After thinking about this for a while, I have decided that gratitude is the sugar that sweetens the lemonade.  If you have gratitude, things don’t seem so bitter in life.  If you remember that while you are being squeezed by life’s trials (lemons), you have the ability to be grateful (sugar) and focus on the blessings and tender mercies.  If you add enough sugar to lemonade, it can be very delicious.

The hard part is remembering to be grateful when things look so bleak.  Lately, I have been realizing how many blessings I have been given.

I am grateful for a daughter who saw that I needed help to get the oil changed in the car because I don’t have the time do it.
I am grateful for daughters who are willing to come and spend time with their father at the hospital when I can’t be there. 
I am grateful for friends who run errands for me and bring me the things I need (food, new broom, toiletries, etc.).
I am grateful for the phone calls and messages I receive from friends and family.
I am grateful for friends who shovel my sidewalks.
I am grateful for friends who have helped me with my children.
I am grateful for a sister who helped me to get my husbands anniversary present because I didn’t have the time or the knowledge of how and where to get it (a reel for his fly rod and fishing line).
I am grateful for friends who are willing to drive us to Huntsman if needed.
I am grateful for friends who drop whatever they are doing to come bring me dinner at the hospital.
I am grateful for all the gift baskets and goodies we have received.
I am grateful for all the meals that have been brought over.
I am grateful for each and every kind act that has been shown toward my family.  There are too many to mention individually.  We have been so blessed!  Much love and thanks to everyone!

I just have to remember all the things I am grateful for, so I don’t feel bogged down by everything that is happening…After all, I would much rather have sweet lemonade to drink!”

That post was written at a very difficult time.  I remember it all too well.  Paul was very sick with pneumonia…not to mention his bowel blockage and everything else…the constant puking.  I remember being so completely exhausted because I was giving Paul four IV’s of antibiotics a day, in addition to his TPN…let’s just say I was getting little to no sleep…it was brutal.

As I look back on our cancer journey, I have discovered it was the remembering to be grateful that got us through—in addition to a lot of prayer and help from others!

I have been pondering my life’s experiences and the things I am grateful for.  It was easy for me to come up with a long list of the “sweet” things.  I decided to challenge myself.  I was determined to come up with a list of the “sweet” things I was grateful for that came as a result of the “bitter” times.

Here are a few things I am grateful for because of the bitter:

I am grateful for cancer.  Here is an excerpt from one of my previous blog posts, “I am not going to lie…cancer sucks!  It turns your life completely upside down.  The terror you feel when you hear that your loved one has cancer is something I never dreamed I would experience.   It is so very hard to watch the one you love so much, suffer so much…but…

Cancer can also be a blessing.  Cancer is a teacher.  It teaches you patience, love, compassion, humility, charity, gratitude, and many other things.  

One of the most important things that cancer is teaching us is to rely on our Heavenly Father.   We have had some very spiritual experiences while going through this trial.  I cannot adequately explain it in words, but I can actually “feel” the prayers of others.  It carries us through the tough times.”

I am grateful Paul was healed from his cancer.  I know that sounds like a strange thing to be grateful for, since he no longer possesses his mortal body.  But, was he not healed from his cancer?  He is still alive and well…only in spirit form.  He is no longer suffering.

I cannot say I am grateful for Paul dying, but I can say I am grateful for all the things I have learned because of his death.  When you go through a trial of this magnitude, you are driven to your knees.  You rely completely on a loving Heavenly Father. You learn compassion, faith, greater spiritual knowledge…a greater understanding of life.  I wish I could be who I am now, but still have him here with me.  However, I know that would not be the case, it is because of his death that I am a stronger, better person.  It is those excruciatingly painful trials that we grow from the most!

I am grateful for EVERYONE who comes into my life. There is something to be learned from everyone whether it be a positive or negative experience.  You have to experience the negative to understand the positive!  For instance, I have encountered people who are selfish and unkind, it is through those people that I learn forgiveness, patience and charity—these qualities are gifts from God.  

Being grateful does not eliminate all pain and suffering, but it enables you to find joy in life in spite of the trials.  I believe where the most growth and strength of character can be developed is by finding gratitude in the sweetness that can come because of the bitter.

Remember that while you are being squeezed by life’s trials (lemons), you have the ability to be grateful (sugar) and focus on the blessings and tender mercies.  If you add enough sugar to lemonade, it can be very delicious!

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