Gifts come in many different forms

Published 9:30 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Illness is powerful. But healing is more powerful. When illness comes, it impacts every aspect of our being. No element of our lives goes untouched. For me, that includes my Senate service, my community service, my legal service, my family service and all my other services. As powerful as sickness is, healing is more powerful. Healing overcomes sickness, and that makes it more powerful. I am in the throes of sickness. However, I am being lifted on the wings of healing.

We all struggle with illness at some point in our lives. It may be something as minor as an irritating cold. It may be something as major as death-dealing cancer. It may be something in between. Recently, I have been dealing an illness far more substantial than an irritating cold but far less impactful than death-dealing cancer.

I used to try and keep my illnesses secret. I learned that such attempts just made matters worse.  People would still perceive my sickness. And then decide that it must be much worse than it was because I tried to hide it. Then others over reacted based upon these enlarged perceptions.

Twenty some years ago Faya Rose Toure, my wife of nearly 25 years at the time, was diagnosed with breast cancer. We wrestled with whether to keep the cancer confidential. We never used the word “secret,” just “confidential.” Finally, Faya said, “It takes too much energy to try and keep my cancer confidential. Besides, we will just end up lying. I will not broadcast it, but I will not hide it.”

Word of her cancer spread like wildfire. So many people came to visit her. Many of the women had suffered the ravages of breast cancer but hid that fact. They were so glad to talk openly with someone who had cancer. Others began sharing and helping each other.

I learned the valuable lesson that we do a disservice when we try to hide our illness. We perform a valuable service when we share our struggles with serious illnesses.

I have had serious illnesses before. One involved my knees. The pain was so great I could hardly walk. And pain is so powerful. After nearly 20 years of suffering, I had both knees replaced at the same time. It was one of the best decisions of my life. It was so liberating to be pain free. I shared my experiences and inspired others to seek knee replacement, including simultaneous double knee replacement. I have been suffering with back problems for several years. The pain just kept getting worse. It was a heavy weight on me. In 2014, a MRI was performed on my back. It revealed serious problems in the L4-L5 region. I was determined to avoid any operation. I tried almost everything from exercise to physical therapy to prolotherapy to epidural injections to inversion therapy and more. The situation kept getting worse. My pain management doctor finally said that the only real alternative left was an operation.

By that time, I was walking bent over. One friend told another friend that I was “walking crooked.” I saw the pain I was causing others when they observed me “walking crooked.”  I continually worked 14-16 hour days, seven days a week. But the pain was a heavy load. It affected everything in my life from family life to Senate service.

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, I had an operation for spinal stenosis. I don’t know whether it will be successful or not. My first official medical indication will come on Aug. 8. I pray that it is successful. I have been trying to follow the doctor’s orders. The doctor told me that I could return to work when I felt like it. However, he also said that I should work only half as long per day as I usually do. My wife told him he should tell me to work up to four hours a day. She explained that I usually work 16 hours a day and half as much would still be eight hours, a full day for most.  She was persistent, but the doctor did not change my work prescription. 

I decided to employ moderation myself.

I thank everyone who contributed to my healing with a thought, word, action, prayer, visit, gift of food or in other ways. I especially thank Faya Rose Toure who was there for me in every way possible. Thankfulness, like healing, is very powerful. I am deeply thankful.

Gifts come in so many forms. We reject many gifts because they come in the form of struggle. Illness is a struggle, but it can also be a gift. When we embrace the struggle, the gift is revealed.  I am embracing my struggle with illness.