12 Things To Remember When Faced With Adversity

Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones. 


Many of you have heard me say that I believe my life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% what I do with it.  Attitude is a choice.  We are what we think, and we choose our own world by the way we choose to see it.  For sure, bad things happen to all of us; you get to choose how you handle it.

I started an aggressive protocol of chemotherapy in 2009 with many complications and blips on the screen for the next 3+ years.  The pain, discomfort, and missing the old me occupied my mind much of the time.  Yet, in some strange way, the idea of being sick or having pancreatic cancer eluded me.  This comes from my ability and visceral belief to allow what I call, a ‘healthy denial’ to take over.

I always scheduled the earliest appointment available for treatment, which was 7:30AM.  Allowing this to take up most of my day was not acceptable, and I knew after a few treatments how my body would react.  If I wanted to travel, I would leave the doctor’s office, summon up everything I had to hit the refresh button, driving directly to the airport and flying to my destination.  The mercurial side effects would kick in two to three days later, so I took advantage of feeling fairly normal after each session.  I allowed traveling, participating in meetings, or completing whatever responsibilities were important, to become a priority, knowing this would change dramatically in a few days.

At each chemo session, a huge shopping bag groaning with newspapers, magazines, and yellow pads with a lengthy “to do” list was always by my side.  iPads had not come out yet and I rarely brought my computer.  Reading is such a joy for me; taking advantage of this quiet time to do just that was a gift I gave to myself.  Also, nap time was an oasis that allowed me to completely remove myself from this situation.  I didn’t fear the process that was about to take place - toxic drugs dripping intravenously into my body that would eradicate (hopefully) this treacherous, killer of cancer cells that, according to many, would ultimately take my life.

Worrying is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do but won’t get you anywhere.  

My personal motivator is a positive attitude.  This is a journey of which I can control only so much.  I can’t control the events around me but I can control my inner response and how I approach these events.  Knowing I had the love and support of family, friends and the incredible resources of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network emboldened me.  And, tomorrow is another day.

From the minute I was diagnosed, I have never been angry, felt self-pity or considered myself a victim.  I truly saw this as a gift – I was not sure what form this would take, but I felt victorious and began a journey of discovering love, support, strength and encouragement from everyone and everything around me.  The outpouring of love and support from my incredible family and friends has overwhelmed me.  I honestly believe there is a reason for my cancer journey, and that we all have the choice to embrace the attitude we want for each and every day. I know I am meant to give back and make a difference for however long I am here.  I like the woman I have become because I have fought hard to become her.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, talks about some personal experiences that have shaped his life and career. “Life experiences will teach you if you listen.”  In every challenging experience there is an opportunity to grow, learn, and enhance your life, if you are mindful and present.

My relentless determination and motivation to never give up (starting with the un-nurturing circumstances from childhood) comes from a belief that every experience, positive or negative, has the ability to contribute to my personal development. I want to always feel open to being present and learning from these lessons.  This does not happen overnight!  Optimism is not so much about feeling happy, nor necessarily a belief that everything will be fine, but how we respond when times get tough. 

When faced with an adversity, remember the following...

  1.  This is only a chapter in your life, not the whole story.
  2.  Falling down is part of life.  Getting back up is living.
  3.  Keep yourself occupied.
  4.  Appreciate again and again, the basic goods of life.
  5.  Celebrate even the smallest achievements.
  6.  Accept “as long as it takes.”
  7.  Listen to your body.
  8. Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ when you don’t feel well enough to do something.
  9.  Remember the rules…. there are no rules.
  10.  Believe in yourself, tomorrow is another day.
  11.  Don’t count the days…make the days count.
  12.  When it rains, look for rainbows.  When it’s dark, look for stars.
I like living.  I have sometimes been wildly despairing, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly, that just to be alive is a grand thing.
— Agatha Christie
Laurie MacCaskill2 Comments