86: Then and Now

86: Then and Now

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Then and Now

Still, I know of no higher fortitude than stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds.

~Louis Nizer

My husband and I were living the American Dream. The fifteen-year mortgage on our three-bedroom, two-bath brick home in the suburbs was cheaper than some people paid for rent. Life appeared to be going along smoothly.

Then hardships struck—one after another.

In February 1996, I had emergency surgery and was given a grim diagnosis of Stage III ovarian cancer with a poor survival rate. As if that weren’t enough, in July 1997, my husband suffered life-changing back injuries in a work-related accident. With a heavy heart, he applied for disability. It took several months before the first check arrived.

We were forced to make drastic, difficult, and far-reaching changes in our lifestyle.

Instead of eating out, we scoured recipe books for nutritious, but inexpensive meals or simply invented our own. We spent evenings listening to CDs or watching movies checked out from the public library. Vacations? Forget it. Instead, we took long walks in area parks and observed the abundance of trees and wildlife, chatted with fellow walkers, and petted their four-legged companions. Visits with good friends were like warm blankets for our souls. We shared meals, discussed things of mutual interest, or simply let our guard down and laughed together. New books and name-brand coffee to go? Not a chance. We read the tomes already on our shelves and brewed store-brand coffee at home. Nothing transported our minds to another place and time like a good mystery.

Then, in September 2005, we made the painful decision to sell our home. The maintenance was simply too much for us to handle physically and financially. Moving from a large house into an apartment required downsizing in a big way. We sold some furnishings and donated the rest to a women’s shelter.

The adjustment from a house to an apartment was tough. But that was offset by a much freer lifestyle where all the upkeep was taken care of by a maintenance crew. Instead of fixing something on the house or mowing the lawn, we swam in one of the pools or got a free massage. No more raking and bagging fall leaves. Instead, we’d sit in the hot tub on a cold day.

We started volunteering at a local food bank. We saw firsthand the effects the downward financial spiral had on people. Requests for food, clothing, and services escalated. Some of the clients were newly homeless, embarrassed, and distraught. We stocked the pantry shelves, sorted donated clothing, and tried to minister to people with far more problems than we had.

Together, my husband and I have been given the opportunity to see and appreciate what’s most important in life—spending quality time with each other and our family and friends. We’ve both been called walking miracles: I’ve beaten the dismal odds I was quoted more than thirteen years ago and my husband has amazed doctors by not being paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Encouraging and helping others whenever and however we can is now one of our life goals.

~Ann Holbrook

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