Six Words To Survive Hard Times

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - October 19, 2005
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It is a fact that some people are better at surviving than others. We all know a few of them. They’re the people who emerge from experiences that would flatten you and me. They’re the ones who take on the worst body blows of life, nurse their bruises, and then spring up again - maybe not as good as new, but different, better and stronger than ever. They are 9-11 survivors, war heroes, cancer patients, domestic abuse survivors, and the kid who is teased mercilessly at school. Somehow they find the courage within themselves to come back again and again.

I recently met a handful of people who belong to a very elite club. They have been on kidney dialysis for 15 years or longer, and have not only lived - they have thrived. That means for 15, 20 and 25 years, these folks have been hooked up to machines for 3 days a week, 4 hours each time, and still managed to live full and active lives.

I was honored when the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii asked me to emcee their event. The Celebration of Life recognized these special people who have a chronic and often fatal disease, and yet have managed to keep it at bay and in perspective. They did this by pushing back fear and ignoring negativity. Each one shared at least one nugget of insight that has shaped their existence.

Lori-Ann Jackson said she realized early on that giving up was not an option. When she started on hemodialysis in 1978, the machines looked like washing machines and the science was still a bit primitive. But she told herself that it could have been worse. “There’s always someone less fortunate,” she said. So she would live one day at a time. Lori-Ann has never allowed herself to slow down. Today she works full time and goes to college at night, both full time.

Rosie Kahele told us a story of a sick 10-year-old boy she saw one day as she was undergoing the long process of blood cleansing. She told herself, “If this boy can go on, then so can I. I wanted to live, I did it for myself and my children and my husband.” And she’s been doing it, and inspiring her family, since 1988.

Kathy Vore is a Wahiawa woman who has been through more medical trauma at a young age than most people see in a lifetime. She was tempted many times to give up. But there was one compelling reason she could not. “I have this boy I have to raise,” she told herself. “I have to pick myself up and do it myself.” That boy is now 16 years old and proudly sat with his mother as she shared her story.

All of these brave people know they have something to give. They are determined not to short-change their loved ones, or themselves.

Patty Stewart was the last person to speak. She didn’t talk about herself, but about what she’s learned in dealing with the special challenges of her life. She said all the survivors have something in common. First and foremost, a sense of humor, to get them through the day-to-day difficulty of managing their disease. And, she said, each has a personal understanding of six very important words:

The first word is I - they’ve learned to say “I am special.” It is this strong sense of self that keeps them secure in the knowledge that their lives are worth fighting for.

Second: No! As in, no, I can’t have that cake. No, thanks, but I really can’t have baked beans. Or, no, doctor, I don’t understand what you just told me. Can you explain it again?

The third word that Patty Stewart says we all need? Yes.

Yes, I can do this. Yes, I will try.Yes, I need your help. Yes, I want to live.

The fourth is a 4-letter word. And that is Give. Patty told us it is impossible to drown in a pool of pity if we are focused on giving. As Lori-Ann and Rosalie pointed out, there are always people who are worse off. They need what we can give.

Number 5? Aloha. ‘Nuff said. Spread it around.

And number 6: Mahalo. To the doctors and nurses, the technicians, the social workers and to the friends and loved ones who have supported them and who have all had a part in keeping them alive. Mahalo!

I watched and listened to these people and was struck by their optimism and spirit. They are the strongest of survivors. And even after years of fighting what could be a debilitating disease, these hardy folks have battled back, and they battle on still. Congratulations and mahalo, for your courage and inspiration.

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