Saturday, November 2, 2013

Discovering Gratitude in a Challenge - My Story

Life was good.  I was married to my best friend, we enjoyed our family, we were doing good financially, and we were healthy.......... or so we thought.

Unlike many people approaching retirement age, the LAST thing on my mind was retirement.  I was 63 years old, with a career I enjoyed; employed for 12 years with a successful company, where I was appreciated and compensated with a good salary and benefits.  Coworkers and management were like family.  The only thing I would have preferred to be different was my commute of 60 miles roundtrip daily.  But, nothing is perfect, and even that commute wasn’t terribly awful.  Although I moaned and groaned at times, the drive was worth the effort to be working at a job I loved.

With my vital signs and blood test results good, my doctors didn’t find any reason to be concerned, even in spite of some stomach issues and arthritis pain.  BUT, that all changed in January 2011, when my leg pain became severely unbearable.  My husband took me to Urgent Care, where it was discovered my left leg was loaded with blood clots.  That diagnosis was scary to hear!  I was put on temporary disability leave from work.

Approximately one month later, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  We both began seeing specialists, and continued to be tested, monitored and treated for our medical issues.  During the following several months, it seemed all we ever did was go to see doctors.  We laughed about those being our dates, trying to find humor in our medical issues.

It was a long road, but ultimately, my husband’s cancer was cured, as well as side effects from the procedure disappeared.  However, I continued to experience chronic pain; and continued to see specialists and be tested to try to determine what was causing my pain.  During the following months, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Nerve damage and Lymphedema, in addition to the DVT.  It was then I was placed on permanent disability and forced to retire from my career early.

At times I felt lost and sometimes useless, and without a purpose any longer.  I had worked for 46 years.  This was a challenging time.  Not only could I not work, but I could not do many things I had previously enjoyed, such as dancing and gardening (to name only two).  Often, I could barely walk.  On the most painful days, it was difficult to avoid depression.  

Throughout it all, I repeatedly searched for gratitude, sometimes wondering if I was delusional.  Did gratitude really exist in this difficult time?  

As I was able to peel off the layers of the challenges, finally I was able to discover the gratitude within, by being mindful and aware. 

Then, suddenly, there was that AHA Moment! 

The message I was receiving was to slow down, and stop the crazy busy stress-filled lifestyle; and enjoy the precious little moments in life.  I became aware of the small, but valuable, things I’d been missing.  

The lesson I learned was to be able to just sit in tranquility, take time to be mindful of the treasures and beauty surrounding us, and to appreciate all of it.  

Although I am unable to work, dance, play in the dirt in my garden, go to the gym, etc., I've learned that there are still many things I am able to do.  I am still alive and do whatever I am able, whenever I am able; even if it means I may need to take a day or so for "time-out" afterwards to gain my strength back.  

I've also learned to be grateful for my down time, when it's needed.  Rest is peaceful and relaxing.  

I am not ready to give up; not yet!  
There is still much life left in this old body, and I intend to live every moment to the fullest!

There truly is gratitude in everything, including in the challenges of life.   

If I had not been blessed with chronic pain and medical issues, I would still be working, instead of being retired; and there are so many treasures and pleasures I'd be missing right now.

With Love and Gratitude,

Something my dad used to say a lot:

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