The difference between an ordeal and an adventure

“Here we go again…”

That was the subject line of Connie’s email. (Connie is my workout partner who, sometimes literally, runs circles around me but mostly because she didn’t make it clear she expected me to run. She challenges me to hit a workout hard early morning after early morning. She is 16 years my senior, 7 inches my junior, and she almost daily demonstrates the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.)

The difference is attitude, and Connie has got one that makes her see even life’s hardships as adventures.

The body of her email that day told me what I didn’t want to hear:

Finally got the rundown on last week’s PET scan.  Nodule is suspicious so I’ll need to get a biopsy.  Am at the lab now waiting to donate yet more blood for more medical tests!  Woooohoooo!


(The “woooohoooo” was sarcastic.)

Connie, whose adventures make great fodder for my blog posts, went through breast cancer in a matter of weeks in November and December. That she deemed an adventure. Doctors caught her cancer early, acted quickly, and chose amazing technologies that hastened the cure, calling her “cancer free” within weeks of diagnosis and treatment.

But on Friday morning, after getting less than four hours of sleep due to anxiety, Connie was grumbling and complaining and clearly counting her latest health scare more of an ordeal than an adventure. (And, quite frankly, messing up the “inspirational speech” I was writing about her for my Toastmasters club.)

“It took me less time to be cured of breast cancer than it is taking getting a diagnosis this time!” she lamented, angrily, as she plotted arriving at her doctor’s office to demand, respectfully and kindly, an appointment THAT DAY instead of the still-a-week-away appointment granted her just to find out the results of the PET scan.

The ladies in the locker room offered advice and, ultimately, offered to go with her and stage a “sit in” at the doctor’s office chanting “See Connie now!” until someone offered to discuss her PET scan results with her.

I was whispering behind her back to the gym floor instructors and our other workout partner, Kaylen, asking them to please contact the prayer chains for their church to pray that Connie would get an appointment that day. I asked anyone I saw who knew Connie to pray on her behalf; Connie has been the epitome of optimism and strength and good attitude (and she really was messing up my speech content by this lapse into negativity). More so, I was concerned for her.

Less than an hour later, Connie sent a text indicating she had gotten an appointment with the physician’s assistant at 11 a.m. (Prayer works, I say.)

While my boss was predicting the end of the world and otherwise grieving the inauguration happening at noon in D.C., I popped by his office and told him about something that trumped Trump news — at least in my book. He agreed.

I had gotten the email and was thinking “Connie could have lung cancer” and otherwise feeling low. My boss understood that gravity of the situation.

But despite her sarcasm evident in the first email that day, Connie was back into “adventure” mode.

Knowing the next step, in Connie’s world, is better than not knowing. In addition, the doctor and another PET scan professional indicated the “nodule” could be something other than lung cancer. Something benign. She has hope. Hope that it is nothing serious. Hope that if it is something serious she can be cured.

On Sunday, my pastor started his sermon with a prayer that included, “Show us hope that we may suffer well.”

I wrote it down. What followed was a sermon titled “Groaning and Glory” and the conviction that “we would suffer.” It wasn’t a sales tactic for attracting new believers. It was a rigorous reminder that life on this planet isn’t perfect and we do and will suffer, as does all of creation (based on Romans 8:18-25). But the sermon didn’t end with groaning. It ended with the promise of glory, a glory so amazing that it will eclipse the pain that came before, much as a newborn in the arms of his mother makes her forget the difficulties of childbirth.

“Show us hope that we may suffer well.”

As I’ve contemplated Connie’s positive attitude these past months as she battled breast cancer, I’ve wondered at her strength. A couple of weeks ago, I’d arrived at the gym a half hour later than I’d intended. I had been crying for that half hour because I had inadvertently unhooked my windshield wiper and couldn’t for the life of me reinstall it. The morning was heavy with fog, and I eventually gave up on the wipers, used paper towels, and drove, hoping for the best.

I made it alive, tears just dried, feeling a bit sorry for myself.

As I unloaded my belongings in the locker room, Connie found me. I shared my windshield wiper woes before she said anything other than hello. Then she told me she’d had a call from her doctor. Apparently, the CT scans she’d had during her radiation therapy for breast cancer had revealed a nodule in her lung.

And thus began Connie’s latest adventure — more evidence of her great attitude (and the lameness of my distress over something as silly as a windshield wiper).

“Thank God for breast cancer!” she told me that day. For it revealed this other problem.

Thank God for Connie and others who demonstrate strength in the midst of suffering — for they help me see my need for a better attitude.

Connie told me, by the way, that she just chooses to have a good attitude. But I think hope makes a good attitude easier to achieve.

I don’t know where you find hope — maybe in a good diagnosis, excellent doctors, a pay raise, a person, your faith — but it can make the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.

Find hope so you can suffer your adventures well. Choose a good attitude so you see adventures, not ordeals.

In the photos: Connie on her first zip-lining adventure (not ordeal). She’s all smiles. 🙂

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