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How My Parents Helped Shape My Positive Attitude About Life With Chronic Illness

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is watching your children struggle. No parent is immune from this task. We have all had times when we have watched our children struggle, when they made a mistake, when they hurt themselves, or when they just blew it royally. But how do you handle watching your child walk through struggles you know are never going to end?

That was the task that was laid before my parents. I had been a “normal” child, well, in reality, I was a bit of a challenge. I was too cute for my own good, and I often had one too many smart comments to make, which many days got me in trouble. Being my parent was definitely a baptism by fire, and almost every conversation I had as a child and started off with a simple phrase, “What were you thinking?”

As time went by I settled down, but at the age of 15 life threw us a curve that we were not expecting. I was diagnosed with arthritis. Within months my hip was destroyed, and then the next year I almost died because of all the medicine I was taking. After my emergency stomach surgery to repair a perforated ulcer, I can only imagine how discouraged my parents must have been and how hard it was to see their little boy strapped up to so many tubes in a hospital bed. They watch me endure not just one but three hip replacements and finally a few years ago sat with me after I heard the news that I had early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

Not only this, but they had to watch my sister go through cancer and lose her battle shortly after the birth of her son. They had every reason to lose hope, and every reason to despair, and every reason to give up, but they did not. You see, they could not just think of themselves, they also thought of me and my sisters. They had the task of not only grieving these losses but helping us walk through them.

As I sat in the hospital very discouraged after my stomach surgery, my dad brought me a hat and on the hat was a simple phrase, “Attitude is everything!” And that phrase more than anything encapsulated everything my parents did for me as I walk through my battle of chronic illness.

Every day, my mom and dad would smile and hug me. They would treat me as a normal child, but help me and care for me as I needed help. They constantly held this message before me and reminded me that I chose how I would face this journey, and only I would choose what I would do with it. Don’t get me wrong, there were days of tears, and days of discouragement, but they helped me not camp out and live there. They helped me see that there was always a reason to hope and that my attitude, and how I chose to see this would greatly affect the course of my life.

Beyond reminding me of the importance of my choices and attitude, they constantly told me that my pain had a purpose, and that there was a plan, and that I could choose how I would use this. They helped me see that I could use this to help others, and in the process help myself. These days are not always easy, but without their prayers, support, encouragement, love and hope, I would not be where I am today. They planted the foundation in me that reminded me that no matter the struggles we face, we can choose to have hope because our attitude is everything.

I am so thankful that this is the approach my parents used when I was a child with chronic illness. I know there were days when it was hard, and there were days when they struggled to live out what they were telling me, but it helped to chart the course of my life that has helped me endure even more horrific events and reminded me even in the face of my latest diagnosis, my attitude is everything and I can choose hope.

Getty image by evgenyatamanenko.