This I Believe
I believe in the power of personal survival. As a physician in private practice for the past twenty-seven years, I have witnessed patients’ extraordinary emotional resiliency to live in spite of tragic events. A typical day in a gynecologist’s office includes the usual array of complaints; menstrual disorders, menopausal symptoms, tiredness, aches and pains, and of course, the ubiquitous problem of weight gain; but occasionally there are those patients who demonstrate a courageous ability to move on with their lives even after severe physical or emotional trauma – a true desire to live, not based on acquiescence or denial, but a decision to live their lives as fully possible while carrying the heavy mental burdens of personal tragedy forever. Such times do more than just impress me, for these patients do not seek sympathy or pity, just an acceptance of life’s vicissitudes and uncertainties.
Examples of such patients include the marathon runner hit by a drunken driver, who has suffered disabling fractures and internal injuries requiring years of painful rehabilitation, only to eventually forgive the offender and be thankful to walk again, be productive, and to see many more sunrises of light drenched mornings that validate her existence; the woman who is raped, not only physically, but emotionally, a murder of the soul, who transcends a heinous personal violation in order to help others who have suffered similar transgressions; a widow who has lost her soul mate of fifty years, who, although forever grieving, is thankful to have her children, grandchildren, and her precious memories; the cancer survivor who cherishes everyday with renewed appreciation and awe, an attitude that is richly sustaining and uncompromisingly positive; and the mother who has lost a son to war, yet keeps his spirit thriving and enduring by living her life completely, without anger and self-pity.
Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, said: I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.
My patients who choose to survive after misfortune and catastrophe more than inspire, but teach me, the doctor, valuable lessons; for their acts of courage validate the human spirit, an inner sense deep within all of us, an appreciation of a great gift – life itself.
This I believe.
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