As with many things in life, one has to reach a certain age to appreciate certain blessings. These are the blessings that accompany the aches and pains of aging. Years ago, I came across some wisdom of the great writer, Homer, that I never really understood until now. He wrote: "But we two, sitting here in the shelter, eating and drinking, shall entertain each other remembering and retelling our sad sorrows. For afterwards a man who has suffered much and wandered much has pleasure out of his sorrows."
I can vividly remember the years that I lived in Dixon. At that time, I was on the school board, working on my doctorate, expecting my third child, and working full-time. My plate was full. In the midst of all these pressures, I started suffering severe migraine headaches. I went to my internist, Dr. Mike Hong, who assured me that my migraines were stress related. Thinking that I knew more than Mike, I wanted to get a CAT scan. To relieve my mind, he sent me to Rockford because it was the only place that had that new technology.
I was sure that I had a brain tumor. It wasn't long before I was having my brain scanned. As I left the hospital, they gave me some x-rays to give to my doctor and told me that the radiologist would call him in a day or two. I noticed that the large manila envelope containing the x-rays wasn't sealed. I had an idea! I drove to a restaurant and while sitting next to the window, I examined my x-rays. I must have looked very important as I examined them.
However, I quickly lost the air of professionalism, because there it was-a huge tumor clearly visible to even an untrained eye like mine. The tumor was in the right frontal lobe. In less than a nanosecond, my body reacted to the realization that I had a massive growth spreading throughout my brain. Death loomed large for me. Immediately, I started to dehydrate by perspiring profusely while my heart rattled inside my panic-stricken chest. I was too young to die.
I drove directly to Mike's office. His nurse read the terror in my eyes and ushered me back to wait for Mike as he went between patients. Soon he appeared. I blurted out, "I have the x-rays, and they aren't good." He slapped the bad news in black and white onto the light screen on the wall. There it was-the massive tumor. It was so starkly obvious; I was going to die.
Mike calmly queried, "What do you see that alarms you?"
"That mass in the right lobe. Can't you see this large black area?" I replied in trembling voice marked with frustration at his being as observant as I was.
"Yes, I see it. So?" he replied.
I was becoming aggravated with my trusted physician and good friend. "Mike, what do you call that?" pointing with my frightened finger at my brain tumor.
"I call that your sinus cavity," Mike calmly replied. "There isn't any tumor there. It shows up dark because there isn't anything there." He laughed at his own joke, which I didn't think was at all funny.
"Well, then the tumor is on the other side where the large white mass is. See?"
"Yes, I see, but what I see is bone not cancer," he said with increasing levity in his voice.
By now, I wasn't thinking clearly at all. I couldn't figure out why one lobe didn't look like the other one. Mike quietly explained that the CAT scan merely cut through my skull unevenly showing bone on one side and sinus cavity on the other side.
"So, you're telling me that there isn't anything there, right?"
Attempting to mask his laughter welling up inside him, he replied, "Nothing that shouldn't be." Sheepishly, I left his office thinking how close I came to dying or at least thinking that I was going to die. More importantly, my experience is an excellent example of Homer's insight. As you face the traumas of life, here are some suggestions for coping with them:
1. Face the problem squarely. Don't deny or run from your problems. Address them.
2. Develop a plan to deal with it. Then implement your problem-solving approach to your dilemma in which you find yourself.
3. Remember what Homer assured us. While coping with your pain, remember that this too will pass. Perhaps, you will realize what I have come to realize. Homer was correct in that you will "take pleasure" in recalling some of your trials. This perspective will allow you to avoid becoming incarcerated by self-inflicted fear.