I don’t usually get overly personal in these blogs, but events of the past few weeks make it a little different this week.

Like every couple, especially one who has raised children, we’ve had to deal with our share of stresses over our 52-year marriage.  Since we have lived healthy and active lives, however, few of those stressors have been in the health area.  But less than a month ago, my wife was diagnosed with melanoma near her left ear.  Fortunately, our physicians moved quickly and she had successful surgery yesterday, less than a month after the initial evaluation of her symptoms.  We had a great and caring surgeon, and Libby feels great today.  More importantly, she is now cancer-free.  Although she faces a year of immunotherapy infusions, immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment which has resulted in melanoma no longer being the death sentence that it was a few short years ago.

As we went through the past few weeks, the observer in me marveled at how well we handled it – especially during an ambiguous week or two when we weren’t sure of the diagnosis or the plan.  We maintained the strength of our relationship, didn’t express regrets in the way that we’d led our lives as a couple, and we did the surgery with trepidation.

And then it became obvious to me.  Strength overcomes adversity – whether we are talking about functioning as an individual, couple, family, or community.  In other words, living life with the expectation that there will be stresses, but accepting the fact that the stresses won’t break you, prepares you to deal with most challenges that you will face.  While I am certain that the commitment to normal functioning with strength won’t work 100% of the time, it will work most of the time.  In the meantime, expect to deal with minor stresses with strength and it will be easier to use the same approach when facing the challenges posed by major stressors.

We got home from the hospital at 2 PM after the surgery and, after resting for a few hours, Libby returned to the baseline level of combined strength and feistiness that was one of the things that I’ve always loved about her.  She contacted our neighborhood pharmacy to let them know what they could do with the narcotic pain medication that was called in by her doctor but she had no intention of taking, and she wouldn’t let me go out to buy her something because it was cold and rainy and dark.  By this morning, we had our first mild disagreement since the operation, as the surgery obviously didn’t correct her troubling tendency to not recognize that I’m usually right.

Life has returned to normal in our household, and we now have the added history of having gone through a medical scare using our strength as a couple to triumph over adversity once again.  I hope that the lesson of the importance of staying strong when challenged by adversity is meaningful enough to put up with my sharing a personal story.

Ron Kaiser, Ph.D. Psychologist, Educator, Author, Podcaster

Ron Kaiser, Ph.D., is a positive health psychologist, coach, author, podcaster, educator, consultant, and speaker. He has been in practice for more than five decades, including 25 years as Director of Psychology at the world-famous Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University. As an innovative thought leader in the field, he has developed the concepts of THE MENTAL HEALTH GYM, GOAL-ACHIEVING PSYCHOTHERAPY (GAP), THE TYPE P PERSONALITY, and REJUVENAGING®.

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