A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.
(Proverbs 17:22, KJV)
The pathologist’s words dropped like a huge bolder right onto the shoulders of his physician/colleague listening on the telephone. “The biopsy shows that you have cancer.” The physician was in the prime of his career, with children in high school and with many professional responsibilities. The prognosis for survival with this incurable cancer was about five years, assuming a good response to chemotherapy.
Even with a supportive wife, the cloud of depression he felt was profound. He did not want to die. It just was not fair! After struggling with the reality of his diagnosis for several weeks, he determined, with the help of supportive friends and family, to make the best of what time he had; he would turn the outcome over to God. So, he filled his life with things that inspired him and made him happy– including time spent with family and friends, music, sporting activities, and creative projects at work.
Being a patient now, he identified with his patients in a new and empathetic way. Since the cancer was slow growing, his oncologist wanted to try a promising new research treatment protocol that was going to start in a few months. It was decided to wait for a while to start treatment. Meanwhile, with hope in the new treatment, the physician/patient adhered to his program of positive, stimulating thoughts and activities.
With several delays in initiating the protocol, a year passed. When the time came to start on the new cancer treatment protocol, and to the surprise and amazement of the oncologist and his patient, all the tests, scans and x-rays showed that the cancer was gone. The oncologist then found, with testing in his research laboratory, that his patient had developed, internally, a unique cell line that destroyed the cancer cells.
Although it is not provable, it is very likely that an upbeat attitude and trust in a “Higher Power” contributed to keeping this physician going seventeen years at present—still waiting to start treatment— after the diagnosis of an incurable cancer. Truly, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” as the medical literature and most healthcare personnel can attest. Patients who develop an optimistic spirit, in spite of their disease— and in contrast to those with a “victim” mentality (who become bitter, depressed, and angry) — tend to do much better coping with and surviving serious illnesses.
The quality of life when happiness dominates one’s state of mind makes it worthwhile to go on, regardless of how much or little of life we have left. We are responsible for our own happiness, regardless of our situation in life. One can be in a concentration camp, a bad family situation, in the midst of a tragedy, and still be basically a happy person. Trust in a Supreme Being adds immeasurably to having a “merry heart.” It is up us to choose to be this kind of person.
– Keith K. Colburn, LLUSM class of 1970