(my wife speaks about her recent experience with open heart surgery)
Eighteen days ago I underwent open heart surgery. It was not sudden or unexpected. My health had been going downhill for some time. As each new symptom cropped up, I reasoned it to be due to a busy schedule, work stress, etc. — any number of things with no medical cause.
When the combination of symptoms began to seriously interfere with my day-to-day life, I decided it might be a good idea to see my doctor. I still didn’t expect a serious diagnosis. As a matter of fact, I was mildly annoyed that I had to take time to see a doctor about what I thought would be some minor cause.
After all — I am the healthiest person in my family — both among my siblings and my children. I’m active. I have none of the conditions many people have, nor any that run in my family history. I’m not on any prescription medications. I have no diet restrictions. I don’t and never have smoked. I have always taken care of myself and I’m the person others call on to take care of them. Yet, I had to take time to go see my doctor.
The initial appointment turned into follow-up appoints, medical tests, referrals to an excellent cardiologist and thoracic surgeon. Here’s where the story gets interesting.
My medical team did an excellent job of informing me about my condition every step of the way. They answered my questions thoroughly and let me know what to expect with the surgery, including recovery. I listened carefully. The medical environment is not foreign to me. For many years, I’ve dealt with physicians, medical teams, hospitals, families, serious and terminal illness situations of friends and loved ones. I’ve also been part of the team, acting as a chaplain in the hospital environment.
So I’ve got that…at least I thought I did. Because of my own previous medical history, in which I bounced back quickly from various surgeries and childbirth, I presumed I would do the same in this instance. This cardiac surgery is a totally different world. Although my surgery was but 18 days ago, I had a scenario in my mind about how the healing process would go. When you run into deep disappointment, all that you’ve taught about keeping a positive mindset can fly right out the window.
According to my medical team, I am healing quite well – making great progress daily. But to me, it seemed like I would take one step forward in feeling better and then one step back. I was feeling frustrated and defeated. After watching tears spill down my cheek again, because I was feeling sorry for myself, my husband gently took my hand and reminded me of the progress I have made and how well I am doing. He pointed out specific ways my heart is healing and how thankful he is daily to see it happening.
I had a decision to make in that moment. I could continue to feel sorry for myself, or I could celebrate my successes and think positive thoughts to help my body continue to heal.
I decided to encourage myself.
You can be the best coach in the world and encourage others all day long. That’s a good thing. Just remember, though, that life — at some point — will hand you a situation tougher than you’ve ever experienced before. You’ll feel a lot of pain, much anguish and even question why you have to journey through the situation. When you’ve finished with the questions, believe you have within you what it takes to get through it successfully. It won’t be a Pollyanna moment. You won’t dance through gardens of spring flowers.
Instead, you will have to make a sober, determined decision to encourage your way through.
Have a great day!
And may the rest of your life be the best of your life.