35: Being a Positive Expert

35: Being a Positive Expert

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Being a Positive Expert

The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person.

~Norman Vincent Peale

It was a routine colonoscopy. Although groggy from drugs, I was awake enough to see the concern on Dr. Gottleib’s face. “You need surgery.”

After the surgeon told me that I’d lose forty percent of my colon, he listed the possible complications: infection, heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and death. My knees were shaking as I left his office, and my husband Jim and I sat on a bench outside his door. I called on Pollyanna’s spirit.

Pollyanna, the young fictional character, had been my best friend growing up. She, like me, had a bushel of trouble, but she practiced the glad game. Each morning I bowed to her, and started looking for reasons to be happy. She inspired me to a lifelong commitment of finding positive choices. Therapy had helped me balance Pollyanna, who often bypassed her true feelings to jump into glad. I’d learned to acknowledge and accept all of my feelings, and still choose a positive way to live my life.

“I’ve got ten days to get ready,” I said through tears.

Although a part of me was in shock, I knew that I had some big questions to answer. Was my spirit sending me a message? What did it need? Was it my time to die? How could I best support my immune system? What ways were the most helpful to honor my fears, yet contain them. How was I going to tell my body and colon about the trauma it was to endure?

I began to make lists, one to satisfy my left brain and one to engage my right. Left: cancel everything, update and revise will and living will, get acupuncture, book energy session with healer, write love letters to my children, plan music to listen to during surgery, organize post-op healing sessions, ask a friend to be with my husband on day of surgery, etc. Right brain: meditate, create healing collage, do dominant/non-dominant handwriting, daily self-healing using Reiki, create prayer-mantra to engage immune system, etc. I would practice what I preached and taught regularly as a nurse consultant. Richard Bach’s quote came to mind: “You teach best what you most need to learn.” Well, here I was, determined to be the best student to get ready for the trip of my life.

For many years I’d used Lucia Capacchione’s book, The Power of Your Other Hand: A Course in Channeling the Inner Wisdom of the Right Brain. I didn’t understand how the process worked, but I’d had tremendous success in accessing information from within that helped me take better care of myself. I took my journal and with my dominant hand (right) I wrote a love letter to my body, telling it the news. I thanked it for its wisdom and told it I needed its help to get ready.

Pausing, shifting to a spacious meditative mindset, I picked up the pen with my non-dominant hand (left), and in big scrawly letters printed the first response that popped into my mind. One word, “DIE.” I was not surprised. I shifted the pen to my right hand, and in words that you’d use for a young child, I wrote that dying was a possibility, but the bigger possibility was that we would live to a ripe old age. I asked what was needed.

Back and forth went the pen with tears flowing. To my surprise an image of a Civil War surgery table kept recurring in my mind. Although I didn’t understand it, I trusted the process and continued. Some part of me believed that I was going to have surgery without anesthetic. My right hand wrote about twenty-first century medicine, explaining how surgery would be done with me in a drugged “sleep.” I detailed the sophisticated medical advancements that made surgery a very common and successful thing.

Somewhere within me, the fear began to melt, and my solar plexus and belly relaxed. There was almost an internal click, after having addressed something that was beyond my rational mind.

During the ten days, however, I had times of anxiety, each issue needing specific attention. With each upset, I balanced Pollyanna’s perseverance with concrete action steps. I tapped my body using EFT (emotional freedom technique). I rolled my eyes using EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing technique) to help keep me in the present. I made up wellness songs and sang them as I took my daily walk. I made a healing mandala with crayons. I wrote positive affirmations, taping them up around my home so that they caught my eye and strengthened my mind. I snuggled with Jim, and watched some romantic comedies. I indulged in ice cream, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. I stayed in the present as much as I was able to, intuiting what action (if any) was needed.

At five in the morning on the day of my surgery we pulled into the hospital parking lot. My friend Jan, who was going to stay at the hospital with my husband, pulled in behind us. I ran towards her, arms outstretched, shouting, “I am ready.” Carrying my suitcase and three boxes of chocolates for the surgery staff, the three of us walked to the surgical department.

It was not easy being the patient, instead of the nurse. And the surgery was painful. But years of positive-mind-practice, along with painkillers and great post-op care came together effortlessly.

On the fourth day post-op I plastered my belly with gold star stickers, surprising the surgeon. He surprised me too. The polyp he removed had ten percent cancer cells (in situ), but he was discharging me four days early because I was doing so well. I would not need radiation or chemotherapy because all the cancer cells had been contained in the polyp.

Pollyanna rushed to my side. I needed her. I was in disbelief and knew that it would take time for the news to sink in. I also knew that I would work with my body-mind-spirit to maintain my wellness. Family and friends would support me. I’d handle each step as it came along, consciously and with as much grace and positivity as possible. My training as a positive expert came in handy.

~Shirley Dunn Perry

More stories from our partners