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Pity Parties Don’t Include Ice Cream

I have had some physically rough days over the years, including carotid artery surgery, heart surgery, skin cancer surgeries and other surgeries. I have had sixteen rounds of chemo; one time for seven months, another for five months, and recently for four more months with many other infusions in between to boost my immune system. I have been in the infusion chair now 133 times over 12 years fighting my leukemia (yes, I counted), but only this past November did I ever feel any discouragement.  It was because this time the chemo was really beating up on my body.  I wasn’t eating and I was sleeping up to 18 hours a day, constantly running fevers, dealing with mouth sores and I developed bronchitis with constant coughing. No, I wasn’t  afraid, but I was having a pity party.  Here is what I wrote at the time:

For a few days this week I was deep into a pity party, in which I rarely participate. Actually, it was embarrassing. I began wondering how I let that happen and how I talked myself out of it. The second question was pretty easy to answer but it took some analyzing to figure out the first. Here is what I concluded:

I joined the pity party because I was only concentrating on everything I felt was wrong – and man, did I have a neat laundry list of negatives along with just poor me, poor me, poor me – and I was ignoring everything that was good. It may be simplistic, but I think this may be how many of us slip into depression - by concentrating on only the negatives happening in our lives. This is NOT to dismiss the physical explanations that sometimes play a part; such as chemical imbalances in our body and mind. That is not the type of depression I am talking about.

How did I finally escape the pity party? It started with the mail on Monday. I got one of those ‘Explanation of Benefits’ from Medicare. Like many I receive, this was a large one – 12 pages worth. It covered a three month period of doctors’ visits and tests. The dermatologist visits were there with the biopsies and growth removals, the CT scan and the many blood tests were there along with two IVIG infusions, and a primary care visit. But what really caught my attentions was the first three days of chemo. Those three days were billed for over $21,000! I started adding up the billable charges listed and came up with almost $70K for the three months. After Medicare and Tricare pays, how much am I going to pay? TWELVE DOLLARS for over-the-counter pills given during treatment! How huge a blessing is that? I know someone battling my type who lost his home because of the bills. Another moved to a different state several years ago to try and get better coverage before he lost his battle. How many times have we seen fund raisers for folks battling cancer? I don't have that worry!

I remembered the son of a couple I served with in the military. Despite a very brave, heroic battle with a rare cancer, he is in Hospice care and in his last days. He has a beautiful family that includes two preschool children. His youngest son was born a month before his stage four cancer diagnosis. If I could switch diseases with him, I really would, just to give him more years with those children. The positive is that the family is one of strong faith in God. I also remembered my niece’s husband who has entered hospice care. They have two children in grade school and she is trying to hold it all together. And I had the audacity to be whining over not feeling well. Ugh! Sigh.

Finally I went and read all the comments on my pity party post on Facebook. There are SO many people supporting me and praying for me and many have been friends with me before Facebook. I also realized many of those friends are technically strangers I only met on social media.  But they still care about me, encourage me, and, most importantly, pray for me. Then this thought really hit me:  My prayers of the last few days were quite superficial, consisting mostly of the type “Dear God, help me feel better.”

Once I started thinking on the above things and praying grateful prayers of thanksgiving for all He has blessed me with, (especially a wife who is my hero caretaker), and asking God to make me more sensitive to everything I have to be grateful for, the fog of self-pity began to rapidly dissipate.

So how did I lift myself out of the pit? I DIDN’T DO IT. My friends and family did it. Concentrating on my blessings did it. Putting God back in control did it. GOD DID IT!

Pity parties are really a waste – no balloons or streamers, no happy music, no guests, and there isn't even any ice cream! Next time I'll turn down the invitation. But you may have to remind me. Or, if you see me at one, bust down the door and drag me out. Offer me some ice cream; that ought to do it.

This song, “Count Your Blessings,” written in 1897, packs a powerful message. I encourage you to look up the rest of the lyrics if you don't know the song.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

John W. – Now!