Small Gestures Remind Me to Give Thanks Despite Sarcoidosis

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by Charlton Harris |

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In all things, give thanks.

I heard this saying regularly while growing up. My mother told my brother and me that we should be thankful for every life experience. I’m not sure if we were supposed to be grateful for overcoming our obstacles or expected to give thanks generally.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that “giving thanks” and being “thankful” is being appreciative for the good things, and for those that are not so good. I try to acknowledge each new day and be thankful that though I’m dealing with sarcoidosis, I’m still living.

The past two years haven’t been kind to me — I’ve had multiple spontaneous pneumothorax, spent two summers in the hospital, and been through pulmonary rehabilitation. My health challenges have taken on a toll on my physical and mental well-being — and on my family. I’m thankful for them and their resolve to not allow our setbacks to get in the way of “living.”

A long time coming

My wife decided that because this was the first summer in two years that I hadn’t been in the hospital, we should go away as a family and spend some time together. I’ll admit that I had some reservations. I kept thinking about past summers in the hospital. The thought of leaving my home — my comfort zone — even for a short period made me feel uncomfortable. I had to take a step back to realize that this family getaway wasn’t merely about taking a vacation; it was about my family wanting to spend quality time with me. And that deserved a big thanks.

We agreed on a short trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. The kids would spend the day at Hersheypark while my wife and I browsed the flea markets, farmers’ markets, and roadside stands — we like that stuff. My wife booked the lodgings, and my son bought the theme park tickets. We were ready to go. I’m usually the one who plans our trips, but as everyone else took charge, I had nothing to do — and no excuse to back out.

I was halfheartedly looking forward to the trip. Recalling my days at Penn State University brought back fond memories. A feature of sarcoidosis is the unpredictability of my emotions. I resolved to push through with the plans despite my feelings. It was late in the afternoon when we set off, and I was dreading the rush-hour traffic and the thoughts of driving through the thunderstorms that had been forecast for our area.

Time for the test

Both of my kids are good drivers and have highway experience from bringing my daughter back and forth to college. But I decided to drive, as it had been two years since I was behind the wheel for a lengthy trip. We set out through a downpour so heavy that drivers were forced to use their hazard lights. I felt that driving in those conditions was a bad idea, but I was too far into the journey to turn back.

However, to my surprise, the more I drove, the more comfortable I became — and soon I felt like my old self again. The storm cleared up as we got closer to our destination. It took us a little more than two hours to reach our hotel, but considering the weather, we made good time. We settled in and decided to grab dinner so we could relax and enjoy some family time.

It all works out in the end

The next morning, the kids made plans to visit the theme park in the afternoon. Meanwhile, to kill time, we found an outlet to go shopping. My son and I went our way; my wife and daughter went theirs. While we were store-hopping, my son surprised me with gifts of a new pair of shoes and a shoulder bag.

As a parent, you rarely expect random acts of kindness from your kids, so I asked him what the special occasion was. He looked at me, smiled, and said: “I’m helping you get your ‘old self’ back.” I smiled back, feeling overwhelmed and gratified that he understood the difference between empathy and sympathy — traits I wished more people showed toward those with health issues. I’m proud to say that my son changed my good day into a great one. And for that, I am thankful.


Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


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