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The hope and magic of words…

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By Jennifer Barish

Moments of quiet reflection were part of everyday life for me from December 2010 until February 2011.  At the time, I was a 37-year-old wife and mother of two young sons; I would immerse myself in daily activities that would make me feel hopeful and calm … activities such as meditation, drawing, listening to music and visiting with family and friends – when I was up to it.

In December 2010, a life-or-death medical diagnosis changed everything for me and my young family.

I had a cut on my hand that would not heal. Antibiotics didn’t seem to be working, so my husband urged me to go to the doctor. When I finally did, I received stunning news. Although I had no other obvious symptoms and felt perfectly fine, I quickly learned I had leukemia.  Three days later, I was on chemotherapy. My husband was the one who broke the news to me that I had cancer. It was a day neither of us will ever forget.

For three long months, I remained in the hospital. I underwent three rounds of chemotherapy (the first round was unsuccessful) and a bone marrow transplant.  So where is the silver lining in all of this…?

I believe the power of hope and stress reduction literally helped to save my life. It started with some meditation CDs (no podcasts back then!) – they helped to control my mind and to will the cancer out of me.  Then I moved on to meaningful prayers and mantras – ones that pertained to the power of healing. Some were of a religious nature, but most were not. It was a ritual every single night. I would recite the words in my hospital room while my husband and our boys said them at home.  My son’s classmates even started to join in on the recitation once a week.  He would take the lead as he undoubtedly knew the words by heart. My 3-year-old knew the words, too. It almost felt like they were our lullaby; the words would put our minds at ease and help us fall asleep.

Around the time of my bone marrow transplant, fear began to set in.  I refused to allow anyone to talk about percentages or chances for survival.   The “scary stuff ” would always run through my mind at night. I knew this was the only cure.  I started to think, “What if it doesn’t work?” and then I began to feel afraid. I called upon my family and close friends to continue to surround me around the clock.  We leaned on my hopeful chants and sang or recited them together constantly. It was so emotional. But, I felt “good” and was so ready to move on to the transplant. All of my fears simply disappeared within my “go to” words.

Thankfully, the transplant was a success.  And I write this blog to you eight years, five months, and 24 days later!  One day I hope to meet and thank my once- anonymous donor. For now, we are email pals.  To this day, I wonder about the magic in the words and phrases that now are a central part of my family’s everyday life.  Was it modern medicine? Was it my “magic” words? Did my “glass is half full” mentality have anything to do with it? Probably all of the above; and, I take these things forward with me, as I try to live life to the fullest each and every day.

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