Healthy:  A Pathology or A Mindset?

Betsy B | Patient |

After surgery to remove a softball sized mass from around one of my ovaries, I learned that I had ovarian cancer.  The surgeons’ skilled eyes …

clearly observed, and the pathologists confirmed with their microscopes, that it wasn’t a fibroid or a simple cyst or something benign.  And as I started to get used to hearing the “C Word” used to describe my own body, I learned all kinds of other interesting new words like neoplasia and necrosis and histology and the difference between grades 1 and 3 and stages IIa and IIb.  It was pretty clear, objectively speaking, that I was not healthy

And yet, I felt great!

After the surgery, the nagging and sometimes intense pain of the tumor was gone.  My recovery was relatively speedy.  Summer was coming and the school year was ending and I felt good.  Even as we talked about chemotherapy and its side effects – I felt hopeful and optimistic that it was all going to be OK in the end.

So was I healthy – or not?

Objectively speaking, in terms of the pathology, the answer was clear.  But I wonder if we should be careful not to box ourselves into a definition of “healthy” that is too fixed or defined by blood counts.  I know that all the good feeling and positive outlook in the world will not destroy rapidly dividing, invasive cancer cells.  But can I say that I am healthy if I feel healthy today?  Or if I feel hopeful?  I certainly will never feel comfortable describing myself as “sick” – though I certainly feel that way at times.  Instead I use words to communicate that the feeling of “healthy” or “sick” in which I find myself from one moment to the next is just that – a temporary state.  What’s more important to me is that even when I feel sick, that my heart and mind and spirit are healthy.

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