Find Your Happy Place
Accentuate the Positive
The week before he was diagnosed with cancer, my father called to say his doctor had scheduled a biopsy. He was losing weight and having trouble swallowing, and a preliminary test had found an obstruction in his esophagus. "It's probably just a polyp," he said.
The "polyp" was stage-4 cancer. Doctors gave him fewer than six months to live.
It was a diagnosis my father chose not to acknowledge. He was a man whose first impulse was to believe any good thing was possible. One of his favorite songs was an old Johnny Mercer tune, "Accentuate the Positive." So when he learned he had terminal cancer, he was determined to beat it.
For a long time he was winning: His first chemotherapy regimen resulted in a remission that lasted nine months. The oncologist didn't even want to try the next round of chemo, but Dad insisted and, sure enough, it gave him another remission. On and on it went, with treatments that offered poorer and poorer chances of success, though each time Dad would get better -- for a while.
In the end, by dint of what his generation called the power of positive thinking, my father lived more than two years past his terminal diagnosis. Twenty-nine months may not seem like a long time, but in the context of stage-4 esophageal cancer it qualifies as a miracle. Against all the odds, Dad lived long enough to celebrate the arrival of the last two of his six grandchildren. Long enough to take my mother on a cruise. Long enough to teach the rest of us what it really means to accentuate the positive.
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