September 23rd, 2014
| Survivor: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
John was a life-long pessimist...until he was diagnosed with ALL and discovered the Power of Positive Thinking. He believes it's never too late to change your mindset. Read more.
I have been a pessimist my entire life. Growing up, I always assumed the worst was going to happen. I resonated with Smalls in the Sandlot, afraid to go outside to play, and instead choosing to work on my Erector Set. Erector Sets can't make you projectile vomit like a bag of Big Chief chewing tobacco. (They also don't get you anywhere near Wendy Peffercorn).
As sad as this is to say, I can remember growing up thinking about what would happen if I were to become gravely ill (I never claimed to be normal). So, when I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on July 2, 2004 (at 16 years old), I can't say I was surprised. I guess assuming the worst prepares you for something like that.
Luckily, I had an ace in my back pocket for dealing with something like this. As a child, I frequently railed against the perceived injustices in life. An adolescent me could not understand why I hadn't gotten an "A" on that paper, or why I didn't have the leaping ability of Michael Jordan, or why my beloved Buckeyes had lost (although to be fair, that last one didn't happen often). My father, being the wise old man that he is, always had one reply in these situations: "Life's not fair."
As I started my fight with cancer, this advice would come in handy. Sitting in my hospital bed, it was easy to linger on why this happened to me. Years of conditioning had already given me the answer though. I needed it, because cancer didn't get any easier. A few weeks after my initial diagnosis, some tests came back that revealed I had a rare condition that would require a bone marrow transplant. This was a much more complicated and risky procedure than chemo treatments, and would require me to stay in the hospital for weeks at a time.
Luckily for me, I had received another piece of sage advice upon my arrival at the hospital when I was initially diagnosed. My doctor, a cancer survivor herself (and truly an angel in her own right), told me about The Power of Positive Thinking. For those unfamiliar with it, it boils down to establishing the mindset that while you cannot control most of the circumstances in life, you can control your attitude. She stressed the importance of carrying a positive attitude throughout my treatment, stating that it would help the end outcome. My dad ended up writing "T.P.O.P.T." on the white board in my room every time I would check in for an inpatient treatment.
Positive thinking became my mantra. For a lifelong pessimist, it was a complete 180. I would not let myself think about any bad outcomes if I could help it. Of course, it's impossible to shut those thoughts out completely. But whenever I could, I went full McConaughey (think more David Wooderson, less Rust Cohle) and just enjoyed what I could. Having a great support system of friends and family helped greatly. All that wouldn't have mattered, though, had it not been for my attitude.
Luckily for me, my brother ended up being a match for a transplant, and the rest went rather smoothly, all things considered. I was in remission in the early part of 2005, after my transplant in October 2004. I ended up missing most of my junior year of high school and my junior and senior of football. But I guess that's a fair trade for the miracle that is life.
In the roughly 10 years since I've gone through all that, I'm sad to say that at times I've lost that positive spirit. Some times life can get the better of you. However, I'm writing this mainly to remind myself again that while I cannot control what happens, I can control how I respond. I'm also hoping that someone going through the same things that I did will read this and will take something from it. When it comes to a positive attitude, it's never too late to start.
Do you believe in the power of positive thinking?
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