When FSR asked me if I’d write a blog on what I’m grateful for, I almost didn’t know where to start. I’m often up late thinking about the downs and ups of the last 6 years and I’m so grateful not just to be alive, but also to be alive with both a sense of purpose and sense of humor. When I speak with other patients who seem to be making the most of living with serious illnesses or injuries, it’s interesting to hear that many consider themselves “lucky.”
“Lucky” isn’t a word that one associates with having a debilitating disease with no cure. Usually, lucky is more like finding a great parking space close to the entrance…and coming out to find that you didn’t get a ticket for being illegally parked. But, in this case it’s more about gratitude. One of the things that strikes me most about patients with sarcoidosis and other serious ailments is that once you get past talking about their condition, most mention something they are grateful for. The most common expression of gratitude is: “I’m happy to be alive.” Others use a less serious voice: “Well, it’s good to be on the right side of the dirt.”
It is most interesting when you find out why people are grateful despite their condition.
Some are grateful for a sense of greater appreciation for time spent with spouses, children, family or friends. Sickness brings a heightened awareness of things left to do, see and say, and just being present enables some of this. I’m grateful to be in this group and have the opportunity to make the most of every moment with those I care most about – and even those I meet for the first time.
Perhaps like some of you, I received a poor prognosis and never thought I’d get to do the things on my bucket list because sarc took away my bucket. (wimpy crying sounds). But actually, my disease came with a brand new bucket for a new list of things to put in it that I likely would have never experienced. (No, I’m not talking about my open heart surgery or opportunities to sample all the latest medical testing products). The new bucket included volunteering at the hospital to speak with other patients about coping and recovery. That was never on my old list. Yet, it has become one of the “new” things that I enjoy doing the most. And, there is a renewed appreciation for things I used to do, but thought I’d never do again. For example, I’m grateful that I’m now well enough to again take walks in the forest preserve and even kick the soccer ball around a bit. I don’t have the stamina or move as fast as before, but I find that I’m more appreciative, getting more enjoyment from my surroundings and really enjoying the day.
Perhaps we can’t function as we used to, but we can be grateful to function as we are able. I’m grateful for the people that humble and inspire me with their outlook on life despite their circumstances – perhaps you’re one of those people. Early in my illness I was being admitted to the hospital. I could barely walk in under my own power, short of breath, nauseous and feeling a bit angry about my situation. The man seated behind the check-in desk was as pleasant as could be. He had a big smile and brightened my spirits while taking my information. I took my seat and a moment later, I was surprised to see him wheel himself around the counter to speak with someone at the nursing station. He had no legs, but was just as happy and full of life as one could be. I’m grateful for that man and the lesson he taught me that day.
I’m grateful for the people God has put in my path to inspire me to be more than just a patient –. I’ve met so many “sick people” who are doing great works and inspiring others by: volunteering, advocating on behalf of a cause, reaching out to others in need, persevering amid bad circumstances without complaint, and acting as examples of how to work at their improving quality of life. These people are my new heroes.
Since we are in the Holiday Season, here are few more things that I’m grateful for: …Cinnamon, hugs, docs that know sarc, dogs, flannel sheets, seafood, first responders (especially the 5 EMT’s that revived me), homemade soup, compliments-incoming and outgoing, hot showers, good jokes, my 97-year old parents, free cookie samples at the supermarket, my Inspire and support group friends, good checkups and labs, Chicago deep dish pizza, warm sunny days, events where there’s dancing (no, I don’t look like I’m being attacked by bees), everything to do with Christmas, back rubs, the beach, and good memories past and to come.
In addition, I’m hopeful that each of you will get stronger and feel significant improvements in your health as we work through this maze together. May this note find you enjoying the holiday season with family and friends, and having much to be grateful for.