shaking hands, grateful hearts

The details are personal but the suffering is universal.  Abnormalities at a routine doctor appointment inspired labwork that demanded I have surgery within 24 hours.  There was an abnormal growth in my stomach, possibly cancerous, and the doctor needed to operate immediately.

I was frightened, anxious and confused.  I went to bed wondering why this had happened and woke with tear strained cheeks.  There wasn’t much time to research the situation or learn if it was genetic or study possible side effects.

The next morning, Jon woke me with flowers and drove me to the hospital.  He got lost twice on the familiar ten minute drive.  His shaking hands told me he was more nervous than I was.
Each nurse I spoke with told me stories of a patient, friend or child that had experienced a similar diagnosis.  Some of the stories ended well, and some, unfortunately, made me ache for their loved ones.

This was the point, however, that I started to feel empowered.  I was reminded that we are all in this life together, and our experiences (both good and bad) are the things that unite us.  When we experience hardship, the best we can do is hope our story makes someone else feel less alone.

Perspective is key.  Although the doctors estimate full recovery in 6 months, I’m anxious about receiving a similar diagnosis in the future.  The good news, however, is that come what may, I’m going to be okay.  There is power in recognizing that loved ones surround us in our hardest moments, and when we persevere, we come out stronger and better prepared to move forward.
The first thing I heard when I got out of surgery was that my friend Amanda was engaged.  Her lucky boyfriend popped  the question while they were strolling Central Park on a weekend getaway.  She sent a photo of the proposal, a quick story about how it happened, and a promise to celebrate when she returned to Minneapolis.

Her joy prompted me to research champagne bars in our neighborhood.  Maybe we could even schedule a cake-tasting before drinks? I immediately Googled wedding cakes in the 55408.  Jon handed me my pills, I gazed through the options on OpenTable, and I got excited about Amanda’s return to the city.
Life, filled with hardship and joy, is meant to be experienced.  We endure heartbreak and setbacks, of course, but we also experience healing and happiness.  The important thing is that our lives are meant to be shared.  In times of suffering, our work is to divide the pain of others, and in times of happiness, our efforts should increase their joy.  With a bit of luck and a prayer, when we reflect on our shared experiences, we will recognize how the moments of suffering worked to make the joyful moments even happier.

21 thoughts on “shaking hands, grateful hearts

  1. You are absolutely beautiful. Your continuance to stay positive in the midst of worry and chaos is so inspiring. I hope that you quickly recover from your surgery. We will be thinking of you, my dear. 🙂

  2. I often speak of authenticity in my own writing. Your own authenticity shines through with every post. However, this post is perhaps your most poignant, most moving that I have read. I have always “seen” the person with a grateful, gracious, and fun-loving aura about her in your words. In this post, I have witnessed all those things along with a healthy dose of uncertainty and anxiety.

    You are so correct that we are all in this together. And even though we are but readers of your words, you can be sure that our thoughts and best wishes are with you for a speedy recovery and many more moments of the unbridled joy that characterize the happiness that you willingly share with all of us.

  3. Jennifer, when did this happen??? Please rest a lot so you can recover properly, eat as well as you can to make sure you have the proper energy and nutrients,.. and take advantage for Jon to spoil you 😉 ok, jokes apart, I sincerely hope you get well soon and that nothing serious is found. Big hugs

    • hey sophia- i got the diagnosis on thursday, and then the surgery was scheduled for friday morning. quite the rollercoaster, right? jon’s been sweet as ever, and i’m feeling better already. thanks for your kind words 🙂

  4. love this post! i agree that perspective is KEY in times like these! i had a very similar instance last year where i had to have emergency surgery from a growth in my stomach as well. it was nice to hear all the stories of people around me who had similar stories & it really was a comfort.

    i hope your recovery is off to a wonderful start!

  5. Oh my goodness, it sounds like it has been a busy and stressful month for you and your family. Sending you lots of happy wishes and holiday cheer. May the new year bring you a fresh start and a clear diagnosis. I’ll be thinking of you ❤

  6. Jennifer,

    You are so amazing and see the opportunity, silver linings and truly grasp the big picture of what life is all about; and you show us this through your life and your experiences. I appreciate your positivity and beautiful self in the midst of what would be chaos for some. Thank you for being upbeat, inspiring and I will be praying for you, your hubby, your family and loved ones as you go through this. Know that your blogging family will be here along with you. Make sure Jon fixes you plenty of your “alternative” Banana Pancakes (Granola bars) which you shared with us in the blog after this. 🙂

    My official non-doctor’s advice for treatment:
    1. Play some irresistible pop music and dance around the apartment. (i.e. Beyonce “Get me bodied”, Gwen Stefani, Janet Jackson…old school 90’s R&B and Hip Hop)

    2. Maybe try the Steve Martin or Jim Gaffigan station on Pandora and laugh while you make delicious goodies.

    3. Try wrapping your dog like a present and see how long he will tolerate it…bow and all. Take pictures.

    4. Let your husband come home and catch you having a one woman dance party and invite him to join in.

    5. Watch cartoons (i.e. Animaniacs, old school Bugs Bunny)

    6. Use this time to catch up on any comedies on Netflix (Parks and Recreation, New Girl, Mindy Project, Neighbors)

    The overall theme of this 6 step program is just an extension of what you’re doing, staying positive etc…but in addition to everything you are already doing, laughter is also a very good medicine…at least that is the word around town. 😉

    Praying for you and wishing the best!!! 🙂

    • i read this comment when i woke up monday morning (yesterday), and it made me so.very.happy. you’re incredibly kind words were very much needed, and they actually inspired the longest ever list of ways to cheer yourself up (i wrote that today based on your methods). thank you so much for being so kind.. again, i really appreciate it 🙂 oooh, and i know i’ve said this before, but i wish we lived near one another so that we can do a mindy/parks marathon and listen to jim gaffigan (or aziz- have you seen his netflix special??) ps.. kinzie is going to be dressed as a present at some point before or during christmas. this is happening.

  7. Praying for your recovery, girl! And for your worried hubby! Joy is a mindset, and your positive attitude is encouraging and inspiring! Looks like you’ve got some time to catch up on all those corny, holiday movies that are always playing on TV! 🙂

  8. hope you’re doing well girlie! sorry to hear about the urgent surgery – but I’m so glad that you have a sweet and supportive husband by your side this week 🙂

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