A Health Scare

A couple of years ago, I was having a really hard time breathing when I would try to sleep at night. As time went by it got worse. I was in Colorado to do some training with one of my martial arts instructors and it got to the point that I was afraid to fall asleep because I actually thought I would die.

I ended up canceling my training after the first night of no sleep and flew back home to go to the VA hospital and get checked out.

After a CAT scan, the Emergency Room consulting Ear Nose and Throat physician came in to give me the diagnosis. He chucked a bit and said, “Looks like you are going to need surgery. Your thyroid has a rather large mass growing on it. That’s why you can’t breathe at night. It takes up a good portion of the space in your throat and when your body relaxes to go to sleep the airway gets cut off.

I went through with the surgery and it was a success. Even better, the tumor was cancer-free. My wife and I had plenty to celebrate. I was so grateful. I was so very pleased to be able to breathe again and not have cancer.


Even though I got what I wanted, what made this so poignant is that I also understand there are times when WE DON’T GET WHAT WE WANT and other times when WE GET WHAT WE DON’T WANT.

You see, when I got to the hospital the day of surgery, there was a lady with brown hair in the surgery waiting area. She was carrying on a conversation with another couple. Mostly about the election. Her husband was already in the prep area getting ready for his surgery.

Eventually, Teresa and I went back for me to get prepped. We saw the surgical nurse, then the doctor, then the anesthesiologist. Everyone was professional and pleasant. My parting words to the anesthesiologist, “Please make sure I wake up.”

I didn’t want to die that day. My faith informs me that “absent the body, present with the Lord” and in one way – AWESOME! But I really wanted to wake up, be cancer-free and get about my work here on earth.

I don’t know for sure what was going through the minds of the gentleman who went in to be prepped before me, his wife or two middle-aged children who showed up later. I will go out on a limb though. I think it is likely they were planning for Thanksgiving together in the tradition of their family. Christmas was also on the horizon a few weeks later. Maybe they had even started buying gifts.

They Didn’t Get What They Wanted

That day, the day I GOT WHAT I WANTED, they not only didn’t get what they wanted, they GOT WHAT THEY DIDN’T WANT.

The husband and father who went to be prepped before me didn’t go home that day. At least not his earthly home. The Thanksgiving Day meal they were planning for 2016 had an empty chair where he once sat.

That man’s experience, that family’s experience of an unexpected turn that day, made my experience of waking up from surgery more profound.



Since that day in the hospital, my gratitude list has grown.

One of the things I see when I work on my gratitude list every morning is a little piece of wood on my desk. It’s the size of the tumor. I cut it out myself and use it as a reminder for me to think about how good life is even when things don’t look the way I want them to.

It’s a reminder for me to be grateful for what I do get as well as for what I don’t get.

Might I suggest to you to think about and appreciate what you do get? As well as what you don’t get.

It has helped me to LOVE MORE. To care more. To be more patient. To try to understand others better and to be appreciative of even the smallest things in my life like hot running water in my home.

Take more time to connect with those we care about. Take more time to feed our soul and give to the world the gifts that we are here to share.

Things can change in an instant. Frequently for the better like my own outcome. But there are also days when we get what we don’t want. And on those days, if I can remember all the good that is in my life, while it won’t change the pain I feel or the difficulty I’m going through, it can help to feel deep gratitude for everything else in my life.