49. Choosing Hope

49. Choosing Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Choosing Hope

If you knew that hope and despair were paths to the same destination, which would you choose?

~Robert Brault

I thought I knew what to expect. But, I was hoping against hope. Hoping the first opinion was incorrect. Hoping they perhaps had seen something that wasn’t really there.

I went to get a second opinion. Entering the neurology department, I checked in. I took a seat amongst the others who sat waiting. The wait, for a doctor’s office visit, was unbelievably short. My name was called within minutes and I followed the nurse to the room I would frequent for the next few years.

When the doctor came in, his smile was infectious as he stretched out his hand to greet me. Dressed in slacks and a sweater, his dark curly hair was pulled back neatly into a ponytail and topped with a knit beret. As I studied this doctor, I immediately felt at ease. I knew that even if the first doctor’s diagnosis was correct, I’d be returning to this doctor.

He introduced himself. Being the newest on the neurology team at the clinic, he told me where he had come from and where he studied. Then the moment of truth came — the testing.

Close your eyes. Start at sixty and count backwards with your eyes closed. Now, arms out in front, palms up, palms down, tap thumbs and second fingers together, etc.

He made notes throughout the thirty-minute examination. Then he put down his pen, sat up straight and pulled his chair closer to me. Looking right at me, he put his hand on my shaking right hand and said, “I have to agree with Dr. A’s diagnosis. You have Parkinson’s disease. In fact, I think, after reading your records, that they misdiagnosed you twelve years ago and you’ve had it since then.”

Twelve years earlier they told me lupus. I could have flushed all that Plaquenil down the sink instead of my throat. But Parkinson’s disease? I was only forty-three. Wasn’t this an older person’s disease?

I have since learned that Parkinson’s disease doesn’t care how old you are. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what nationality or gender you are.

I thought I knew what to expect when I drove thirty miles for that second opinion, but looking back, I think I wanted to hear something else. Something like, “Well, I’m not sure what Dr. A was thinking, but you’re the healthiest person I’ve ever met in all my years as a doctor.” Hope springs eternal.

Ah . . . hope.

At a recent seminar I attended on Parkinson’s disease, one of the speakers stated that the greatest medicine we have in fighting any disease is hope. Hope for a better day. Hope for a breakthrough in research. Hope for a cure.

It’s so easy to get down, to feel like giving in or giving up when faced with a challenge that you have no control over except for how you respond to it.

After my appointment that rainy winter afternoon, I walked across the wet pavement, stepped in some unavoidable puddles, got in my car and closed the door. The cold, damp feeling permeated into the very depths of me. I shivered. And then, I cried.

My doctor didn’t tell me I was the healthiest person he had ever met in all his years of medicine. He didn’t tell me that Dr. A was wrong or that I was going to get better. But what he did say was that he’d be there with me to the end.

Now, I know that you can’t literally hold a doctor to a statement like that, but hearing that from a doctor who cares gives you hope. Knowing that you have someone who understands what you are going through; knowing they are on your side through your journey and that you are not alone gives you hope. And hope is great medicine. It brings purpose back into view. It shuts out the “what ifs” and turns down the dial of doubt. It disables the feelings of despair and enables you to not only have a confident expectation for a coming cure, but also the ability to find the blessings in the curse and have faith for a brighter future than you might have imagined.

I started the car, and as snow began to fall a peace came over me. A peace that all would be and was well. A peace that assured me that even though I couldn’t give back this disease, I could choose how I was going to react to it. And I chose to do it with hope.

~Sherri Woodbridge

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