I’ve always felt like I was a positive person. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude wasn’t over the top difficult. But when our son was diagnosed with cancer I found myself searching for ways to be grateful.
I sat in the hospital waiting room while he was having a growth removed from his neck. It had been there for several years and when he finally had it checked out life became a bit of a whirlwind. Doctor visits, biopsies, surgeries, pathology reports, and patience became our new normal.
As I wrestled with the topic of gratitude, I was drawn back to what our son said before his first surgery:
“I have two ways of thinking. I can either focus my thoughts on my faith and trust everything will work out okay, or I can focus on the fact that I’m getting cut open tomorrow.”
His attitude was jovial and optimistic that next morning, and as a family, we reflected his optimism. We were united together in our faith and prayers. The looming questions of “what if” were something we chose to push to the back of our minds. But after the surgery and pathology reports were back we had yet another choice to make.
How do you cultivate gratitude when your son is diagnosed with cancer?
At first, I didn’t believe him when he said, “I have cancer mom.” Was this some kind of ugly joke? This happens to other people, not to us. But no one is safe from the big “C” word. It sneaks up and shocks your system like the scariest of horror movies. It doesn’t seem real – and yet it is. I do not mean to sensationalize the pain our family felt, but merely want to share some of thoughts and lessons I learned from this experience.
My dad was the first person I called. The words were stuck in my throat and finally squeaked out. “He has cancer dad.” His reassurance quickly calmed my worries and fueled my faith. I’m grateful for parents who taught me faith was to see beyond the “right now.”
I couldn’t help but feel the similarities between calling my dad and praying to my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful for a relationship with my earthly father that has laid a foundation for one with my Heavenly Father. He cares about our pain and is waiting anxiously for us to reach out and ask for the comfort and peace He is readily waiting to offer.
I’m grateful for the peace I felt after the initial shock had passed. I had been studying my scriptures earlier in the day before the pathology report came back. The words “Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea”  had affected me that morning and came rushing to me again in my time of need.
The peace God offers is not always a perfect and pristine picture. His peace is calming but ever moving as it carries us like a river to where we need to go. Our righteous choices give us strength like the waves of the sea. As we face the blowing winds the future is sure to hold, I feel peace deep within my soul. And for that I am grateful.
It would be easy to share a “How to” list for cultivating gratitude, but there is no getting around the action involved with developing the habit. It takes consistent effort and just like a muscle that doesn’t get used – it will atrophy. Gratitude is a choice. One that we have to consciously make with every negative thought or difficult situation. Concentrating on what you have rather than what you don’t creates a “half glass full” type of outlook. With each sincere expression of gratitude, we send positive energy to our brain increasing our ability to cope and survive the harder things in life.
I felt hope not despair as we unite around our son as he battled this disease. I’m reminded of the scripture that says: “Lift up thy head and rejoice; for thou hast great cause to rejoice.”  We have so much to rejoice and be thankful for. Growth is never easy, and we wouldn’t appreciate it if it was. I’m grateful for opportunities to grow.
 Isaiah 48:18
 Alma 8:15