My Attitude Adjustment
When I had breast cancer and went through the bilateral mastectomy in October 2006 I did not do the recommended chemotherapy cocktail (three drugs) and I did not do the hormone therapy or radiation. I had experienced one complication after another with the surgeries. I was sick with staph twice from the surgery, a broken foot with a pin in it, two knee replacements. One knee replacement was had complications, it was put in crooked, so I went through two more corrective surgeries. I had my gallbladder removed, uterine surgery and other surgeries from the complications. I had 14 surgeries during that time, and it was very painful. The recovery time in between surgeries looking back now, I’d say were not enough time before I was back in the hospital having surgery again. My attitude during that period was not very good starting; I was terrified when it got to be about the 7th or 8 surgery.
I was on antibiotics for months for a staph infection and sick to my stomach. I was confined mostly to bed. Sometimes I would wake up very early in the morning because of the pain, take my medication and not be able to fall back to sleep; this meant I had a much longer day. It seemed like the time on the clock was in slow motion. For me time wasn’t relevant for me really except for doctor appointments. I was lonely and bored quite a bit, and I did not want to be a burden on friends or my daughter.
I realize how depressing this sounds, but I was not happy. I needed help just getting to the bathroom, out of bed for everything even showering and washing my hair and I needed food in bed. I did not want to see my chest in the mirror because it was gone and there were hideous gashes for nine months before reconstructive surgery began. I desperately wanted to be able to get out of bed so that I could drive my car or go for a walk outside. I wanted to socialize with my friends. Now and then I would snap back to reality and remember that there were people having to endure even greater struggles than myself but regardless I am ashamed to say I still felt my attitude headed in a downward spiral.
Somehow I reached a crossroad where I knew I needed to change my attitude. I was afraid of slipping into complete depression and knew If I continued feeling sorry for myself I would never return to the positive, optimistic woman I used to be. I used to write in journals, and I had stopped doing that when I got sick with cancer. I remembered how I used to write five things I was grateful for and that there was a connection to feeling hopeful and abundant in life simply by being grateful no matter what adversity I was going through in my life. I knew it was time to start up a new gratitude journal. I looked around my bedroom to find things to be thankful for; you’d think being thankful to be alive would be enough! I was still afraid and in my miserable frame of mind, trust me, it wasn’t easy to write to in the beginning. I had to force myself to write, and my sloppy handwriting barely filled up a 1/4 page.
It read like this,
1) Thank you for my pillow
2) Thank you for the air I’m breathing
3) Thank you for the soup (even though it makes me sick, there’s nutrients so, thank you)
4) Thank you for my toothbrush
5) Thank you for this journal, so I can start recognizing things to be thankful for once again
~Good night God
My attitude did not change overnight. I was sad, I needed to forgive, let go of resentment, it was a process. I still felt cheated in life, not just from cancer, and my relationship that took a huge hit but I missed my family. I felt my spirit diminishing. You can do too much thinking when you are sick and confined to bed. There was a veil of despair separating me from everything good around me; I lost sight, but I was determined to reach happiness again.. I always use to say, ‘If you don’t feel like smiling, smile anyway because the rest of your body will eventually catch on.
I wrote in my journal faithfully and before long I was filling up an entire page each night. More time passed and I was filling up two pages. My handwriting was not sloppy anymore and finally an attitude adjustment was taking place. It was getting to the point where I would feel concerned about leaving anything left unwritten that I was grateful for that day. I was grateful for the smallest things, like my soup spoon versus the regular teaspoons that caused more spills. I loved my flex straws for my protein drinks.I was grateful for phone calls from friends, we always laughed. I opened a letter one day and inside there were drawings from my best friends daughter. I used to hate the birds chirping outside my window each morning because they woke me up early and that meant a long day awake, stuck in bed. Now I was grateful to hear them singing because they were a reminder for me, someday I was going to be free again. I just knew I would get through it all.
I took this attitude adjustment project a step further! I wrote down positive affirmations on pieces of paper. “You are loved,” “There is beauty all around you,” “God is with you” etc. I printed pictures of fairies and colored them in careful detail with pencils; they cheered me up! Their big beautiful wings signified freedom to me, and the long flowing hair and whimsical gowns signified femininity that I had been so afraid of losing because of what I had lost with breast cancer. I had my daughter tape these positive affirmations on my ceiling for me, including each blade of my ceiling fan over my bed so I would wake up to a room with positive messages and start my day with a smile. I felt inspired and beautiful on the inside and felt I could get through just about anything.
What I have learned is this, sometimes we are given too much to handle, and each of us copes with it differently. Adversity showed me my abilities, and it shaped me into a strong and compassionate woman. We all have the power of our perception to see a lifetime of success and failures any way we wish. Some will see a life of many victories. Others will see many failures. Our attitude and our perception can constantly be adjusted. What we see is what we get.
In closing, I will share a short story with a very powerful message.
“Once there were three bricklayers. When each bricklayer was approached and asked what he was doing. Their responses were quite different. The first one answered gruffly, ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second replied, ‘I’m putting up a wall.’ But the third bricklayer said with great pride, “‘I’m building a cathedral.’”
The bricklayer story is a great reminder of how we can each have a different perspective of the same thing. Now when I am sick in bed, I have a different attitude. I can envision my body healing itself, and while I lay in bed resting, there is a whole lot of work going on inside my body by me being at peace and having an attitude of gratitude. Thank God I am alive and healing.