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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

In Other Words: Suffering is Meant to Teach Us Something



By Chuck Keller

One year ago (May 20, 2019) my life changed dramatically and forever. I underwent the CAR-T protocol to address the Diffused Large B Cell lymphoma that I had been fighting for a year and a half prior. I wrote about it here throughout the year.  I’m not going to lie, it was a difficult time and the recovery seemed to last forever but it was a few challenging months and, with the help of a supportive network of volunteers, by September I was back to “normal.”  I looked forward to celebrating that anniversary and even attending a survivors picnic but….




But (And don’t you hate it when you see that word?) the odds were not in my favor.  Six months later, a “spot” showed up on the regular checkup scans. It was a lymphoma albeit not the same as last year's. I got the news as I was driving to a Cincinnati Leukemia Lymphoma Society fundraising workshop in January. I couldn’t focus on what any of the speakers said that evening.

The good part is that the doctors assure me that the “spot” can be addressed with about a month of focused daily radiation.  At least there is no more chemo or living in a hospital isolation ward.

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But things seldom go according to plan. You see, the scans also revealed four significantly large kidney stones - two in the kidney and two in the ureter and that would present an impediment to a swift treatment.  And, of course, it would take a few procedures so it would delay the radiation. So first take care of the stones and then take care of the “spot.”

I’ve dealt with stones for decades and I usually name them like major storms but with a spin. I’ve had Barney and Fred. But this time I have the entire Rolling Stones band - Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie and probably a few session players. Sigh. Ron and Charlie and big chunks of Mick were blasted but doctors will have to go back for Keith after radiation. Seriously, Keith will outlive history itself!

After a month of lasers and stents I am ready. I have the radiation “tattoos” to guide the machine to the mark. Now I hurry up and wait. Add the threat of the coronavirus to the mix and you have an anxiety cocktail of mammoth proportions.

 Even though I have battled this for over two years, I have it easy compared to others. I tell you these things because I am still at heart a teacher and here are the lessons for you. I hate to see people suffer and we all know people who are suffering for one reason or another.  Many of us share a heightened sense of being or purpose being in quarantine. But if you are ill, then it becomes complicated.




So here are your lessons. Oh, and don’t save these for when you are ill. Use them now.

Be open to possibilities.
Be honest - especially with yourself.
Don’t deny facts.
Face the challenge no matter how frightened you are.
Allow love to enter your life.
Put your affairs in order.
Listen not to respond but to learn.
Celebrate each day.
Be kind. (There’s no reason to be a jerk.)

We’ve all been dealt setbacks, some worse than others. And even though we often recover, there are scars left behind to mark the trail we travelled. Helen Keller wrote that, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Suffering is meant to teach us something - so listen.

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