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home : readerswrite : yourstory May 26, 2016

Strangers carrying grace

He pointed to his head and we exchanged nods with the unspoken truth that mental toughness, a spirit of will and positivity could make a difference.
-- Susan Pettit

by Susan Pettit

Cancer can change one's perspective, shift priorities, create daily gratitude. I am beginning to see how and why that happens. I have emerged from the chemo coma - fatigue, headaches, nausea, desperation and sadness. I understand a good day or a string of days and try to seize what I can from them. No pressure, no judgment to accomplish Amelia Earhart-type tasks, but appreciation for completing my laundry and gulping some fresh air.

Had I gotten lethargic and lazy pre-cancer? Oh, yes. Was that a combination of work (stress), life (stress), age and fighting another chronic disease? Perhaps. That was then; this is now. I am so happy to have turned the corner and pray that I continue to have moments of clarity.

As I continue to struggle and see others around me struggle for very different reasons, I realize once again what the past several years have taught me. Life is fragile. Showing up for our lives takes work. An attitude of gratitude takes practice.

You would think "sick" people get this perspective more quickly and more easily than others, but it just isn't true - at least for me. I know that years of practicing and planning for the future, fostering perceived control and some of my entitlement behavior did not prepare for me the task at hand. Awareness and change are gifts I've been given to continually grow from this experience and take part in my life.

I've had days shrouded by tears, self-defeat and fear, and then emerge to joy and humanness. It gets you thinking about the resiliency of the human heart, the mind-body-spirit connection and the amazing truth in "this too shall pass."

As I peeled myself from my bedroom and made my office visit for labs and consult, I met a man in the chemo chair next to me. We struck up a conversation and he said, "You know this is a mental game."

"A mental game." He pointed to his head and we exchanged nods with the unspoken truth that mental toughness, a spirit of will and positivity could make a difference.

I will remember that exchange not only because of the chemo tips he gave me but because of the sense of grace he had as he walked away. Here's to more chance encounters with strangers carrying grace.

Susan Pettit lives in Apple Valley.

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