I’m no missionary. I have never been a fan of it, and my vocabulary is too sprinkled with words that don’t lend themselves to it. That being said, I do have some evidence for the jury. I’m not asking you to believe in a particular god or system of belief. Just consider this data that strongly supports believing in something!
A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with an acute leukemia (APML), resulting in a stroke, and underwent a long treatment to remission. I got reflective, which is pretty common with all cancer people, and started taking stock of the life events leading up to cancer and during treatment. The first thing I noticed is there were a lot of unlikely things. Take a look.
- I nearly talked myself out of the blood test that saved my life. I can see the stoplight I was sitting at, considering whether to take a left to the lab or banging a right for home. My normal pattern is to procrastinate for anything like this as I’m not a fan of long waits or getting poked. I didn’t, though.
- Rare cancer and rare stroke. I won’t post percentages, but my cancer and the rare occurrence of something passing through a PFO and causing a stroke is astronomically low. The odds of those two things in combination killing me is high. You can play with the math, but I wouldn’t bet the house.
- The cycle from diagnosis to remission went well. The nurse-practitioner saw the results of my blood test and told me to get to the hospital immediately. The community ER doctor said it could be Leukemia and the community Oncologist followed up on that thread to correctly diagnose me with APML. The Oncologist and a family member (who survived 911) got me into the BIDMC 7 Feldberg clinic in Boston, where I could get the best treatment from expert doctors and nurses in a facility that could handle APML. I had the stroke there, which was the ideal place to have one-if there is such a thing. I was a system analyst in a hospital for years, and stuff doesn’t usually work out this well on paper, never mind reality.
- I married the right person. Not only is she loving, smart, and beautiful, but she’s also a great nurse who understands the business of medicine. She handled the crisis well and was right there with me at every step. She was my rock. I would have broken without her love and strength. Her medical knowledge side-stepped many pitfalls. We’re also not in the poorhouse. I would have cheaped out and gotten the cheapest insurance. I’m darn lucky she said yes, never mind her possessing all these qualities.
- I had three big unexpected angels along the way. The paramedic that sat with me in the back of the ambulance, my go-to nurse, and a distant relative. The paramedic was a survivor who was honest about what was going to happen and added the first building blocks of a mindset to get me through it. My nurse was with me through the worst. She was balancing getting her NP, planning a wedding, and caring for other patients. She never missed a beat and advocated for me every day. The third was a distant relative who reached out with a letter and book reinforced by a few key conversations. He is the warrior. Three different people out of leftfield did so much.
- I was admitted just before Covid and did my outpatient through Covid. Pre-Covid admission allowed my wife and family to be there during the initial storm. Covid lock-down made what would have been an awful daily winter commute from Plymouth into Boston for outpatient treatment just a 50-minute drive. Normal traffic would have been stressful and tiring to all involved; never mind Cape traffic later on!
- I was working and still work for a great company with excellent people and benefits. Prior to this job, I could have been traveling, working, and living the less-than-ideal work-life for being sick. Things worked out well and happened for a reason. I truly believe this.
- Our parents are awesome and retired. They were there for us every step of the way and did the driving during treatment months. They also did this during Covid at great risk to themselves.
- Catholic Mass on Sunday was an escape in the hospital. When you’re in the hospital, you’re not on your clock. However, the one thing they won’t mess with is church. So I started by putting it on for thirty minutes of peace but started listening as well. It was less about the rituals and more about some of the things that came up in scripture. There was mindfulness to it. I continued watching as an outpatient, and it became a peaceful, comfortable place to be. I then started thinking about it while undergoing chemo or some of the less pleasant things. It helped, and I would never have found it unless in that exact situation again.
I was a lax catholic more prone to St. Mattress on Sunday and hanging on a small thread of belief to uphold family holiday rituals and the “just in case” escape clause I formed in my mind. There was nothing tangible in my forty-plus-year life experience to drive a higher belief. Now, through some visible synchronicity of unlikely events, there is for me. None of this stuff was likely, never mind the combination of it all. These things came together for a reason. I hope you see it too!