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.