Due to rather odd circumstances, between mid-July and late August, I had two surgeries for the same thing. The first one “failed” according to the 2nd opinion specialist. The 2nd surgery, 4.5 weeks after the first one, was more than twice as long and much more invasive due to the necessary removal of the first thing. Long story short, I ended up feeling like several trucks had run over me, then backed up and run over me again. I returned home hurting in many places and was told to rest for the next 4 weeks – meaning, not to lift anything more than 10 pounds (that eliminates picking up any of my cats!!), and not to run around doing things. Just rest. Wow. Those of you who know me realize that being told to rest and remain would be a huge challenge for me. For those of you who do not know me, I have a ton of kinetic energy that makes sitting still for very long almost impossible in my regular life. But, I vowed to try to be good!!

I spent the week subsequent to the 2nd surgery pondering everything, in addition to reading articles I had been wanting to get to for a while plus several books. I pondered a lot about my health. About aging. About what we can and cannot control in our lives. About how the latter feels to me (not good).

We all age. I guess it is just not negotiable! But, how do I want to age? Can I design this phase of my life?

Good health is felt, at least to me, as a typical state of being – nothing unique. I am incredibly grateful that I come from healthy Kansas “stock,” who didn’t get sick frequently and even if they were feeling a bit yucky, kept on working, caring for others, and just doing all that life required (single mom, retired grandparents, etc.).

I spent that pondering time feeling a bit sad and, at times, a bit pitiful. Then I would say to myself, “Why feel this way when you know this is a temporary state of being, unlike many other people who have chronic illnesses.” That little admonishment generally was all it took to get my head on straight, but at times when pain was setting in (I don’t like to take pain meds unless I have to), my attitude was not very bright. Understandably.

Now, two weeks post-surgery, I realize again and again every day – as I feel better, stronger, and healthier – that I am fantastically lucky. Oh yes, I do eat well much of the time and exercise and sleep, but most of all I’ve inherited good genes and good luck (in terms of accidents). I want to wallow in this feeling of gratitude for my general good health because of all things my sweet mother taught me, finding gratitude in our spirit each day is the key to happiness. I think that perspective also might have a good deal to do with living long and avoiding illnesses, but who knows. Genes are pretty powerful: my grandmother lived to 101 and my mother, with many more lifestyle-created health problems, lived 96.5 wonderful years. Neither “lost their minds” as the old people used to call it. They remained sharp, funny and full of life to the end of theirs.

I hope to remain consistently grateful for my life and live it to the fullest. I think my conclusion from this summer surgery saga is this: We cannot control our lives (duh!), including our health, in some cases. What we can always control, however, is our perspective. Sometimes it takes a bit of self-urging, gently please, and then if we choose to feel better about our circumstances, however awful they are, that choice is our priceless gift to the self.

To self-caring and comfort through challenging times,


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Deborah M. Henson