Those who have known me for a while know I used to be pessimistic at times. My philosophy behind that was that I would never be disappointed with a bad outcome if I’m expecting it. In fact, I used to call it, “The Power of Negative Thinking” (See the opposite of Norman Vincent Peale). I felt that the disappointment I experienced when I didn’t get what I expected was worse than if I had anticipated a negative outcome. My aplastic anemia has helped me to change that way of thinking.
A month ago, I saw a nice spike in my blood counts; my ANC went from 800 to 1200 in one week. I thought that was my turning point. I was happy with the progress and feeling positive that I might actually survive this.
My hope was quickly squashed when it went back down to 900 the following week and stayed there for 3 weeks.
Then my doctor started talking about ‘non-response’ and a bone marrow transplant. That was a rough time for me. But I came through it by thinking about how I can make something positive out of this situation.
You don’t have to be full of positive thoughts to make a positive impact on someone else.
I now realize that negative thinking is very depressing and not very rewarding. Negative thoughts have to be quickly pushed from your mind or they will consume you. They feed on your fragile psyche and require little energy on your part.
On the other hand, positive thinking is hard. It takes some effort, particularly in the face of negative news. It may come easily to some people, and harder to find in others, especially those that are stuck in worry, fear, and depression.
I know the odds are against me. I know I’m not progressing as fast as the doctors expect. I know I am still at risk for serious medical problems. But…
I know I’m doing everything I can by taking my medicine, exercising and being careful not to get sick or start bleeding. I know I have a tremendous support network of family and friends. And I know some of my counts are creeping upward, and some are staying the same.
You need to balance the positive thoughts with realistic thoughts. Realistic thoughts sometimes have a ‘negative’ tone, but they need to be considered. I’ve heard stories of how some patients take 8 to 12 months to respond. So I remain “cautiously optimistic” now with good news, sometimes downplaying positive things as well.
Remember when you were a kid, and you asked Santa Claus for that special present…but you didn’t get it on Christmas morning? How disappointed you felt. Yet how quickly you got over it when you realized how many other toys you did get?
I pray every day that God increases my counts. Sometimes He does, sometimes he doesn’t. When He doesn’t, I quickly try to remember there’s a reason…and I think about the other blessings I have. I’m lucky to be alive after 2 months in the hospital with sepsis. I’m blessed with my family and friends, a great job, and of course, the Brewshack!
This week’s blood counts were encouraging. My ANC is back up to 1200 (out of 1500), so the white cells are slowly increasing. The red blood cells and hemoglobin remain the same; I still need bi-weekly transfusions since my red blood cells aren’t being produced by my marrow. But the good news this week is that my platelets have increased for the first time, reaching 23 (out of 150). This is the first week I don’t need a platelet transfusion…which is good because I had an allergic reaction during last weeks’ platelet transfusion!
This illness can really mess with your mind. I have to get blood drawn every week (ouch!), and I have to hope and pray that the numbers are increasing each time. But they don’t. They go up and down. “What does that mean?” is all I can think about. That can be nerve-racking….not just for me but for my family and friends who want to know how I’m doing. But there’s nothing I can do about the numbers.
Romans 8:28. And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.
I remember when I was trying to lose weight, running 5K each day and I was so happy to see the change in my body weight over time. I looked forward to seeing those numbers each time I stepped on the scale because I knew those numbers represented how hard I had worked.
But now, I can’t anything to change my numbers. My blood count numbers don’t care about what I do. While exercise and eating right will help my overall health, it wont change my numbers.
It’s tough to go through life relying on numbers or other measures in your life, especially numbers and quantities you can’t control. So with the inspiration of my brother-in-law Kevin, I came up with this quote:
“Count on faith, not on numbers.”
If you are relying on numbers like cash, belongings, or blood counts for happiness, you will inevitably be disappointed as these things. Keeping your faith strong should be the only thing that really counts.
Hebrews 11:1. Faith is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.
That’s why I look upward to ask God for help in healing me, because it’s all in His hands.