Thank you so much for your letter. I really appreciate hearing from you directly and your support and love are very important to me, so I’m glad to hear I’m always in your thoughts! To turn around what you said—I have been blessed with exceptional parents and you both have really come through for us during this time. Even on a very practical level, by the way, you have been helping me medically because your financial help allows David to not work in the clinic, where he would be exposed to many nasty bugs. We are both sure that our “stay-at-home” lives have prevented several infections and hospitalizations during my immune-suppressed times—a real luxury for which we are so grateful. But of course, the most important help of all is how much love and positivity you have expressed to both of us.
I have heard many stories of parents withdrawing from their children when serious illness comes because they can’t handle the uncertainty and pain. So they lapse into pessimism and the avoidance of hope, prematurely beginning to grieve even before the outcome is known! It’s true that hope is a risky thing since it always carries with it the possibility of disappointment, or a sense of “failure” if you turn out to be wrong. The seductive song of pessimism is, “If things go badly, at least you will have been right, and you’ll have had a long time to prepare; if things go well, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!” But this attitude is unhelpful and flawed, I think since it works against hope and the power of positive self-fulfilling prophecies. I believe that even though hope is riskier, it is the brave and necessary path, and that hope is a practical and useful force to harness. Certainly, this seems to be true for physiology and the body.
I’m convinced, if only from my own experiences, that the mind/body connection is real, and positive attitude does influence health (but not always enough to change the outcome—still, why not try, just in case it can tip the balance!). And I am very sure that hope is also a societal and political force—I’ve seen so many (too many) examples of pessimistic self-fulfilling prophecies in the USSR, as well as counter-examples of amazing results when hope was mobilized.
Anyway, I find it interesting to reflect that for five years my work has been about trying to stimulate and nurture hope on the societal and global levels, and suddenly I now find myself working with the very same issues of hope, pessimism, despair, courage and risk-taking on a very personal level! This has been a very challenging two months for sustaining active hope, yet I feel (thanks to many hours of thought and writing, hundreds of journal pages and great loving support all around) that we’ve done it. And now I feel there has been some sort of turn in the last week. I have not felt this healthy for nine months—my counts are high, I’m exercising every day, my hair is thick again and I even have a great tan! It seems the radiation did the job well, though we won’t know the results for sure for two weeks. There are more reasons for hope than ever.
…Thank you, Daddy, for choosing to hope, and for surrounding me with hopeful energy in your thoughts – it is the braver and riskier choice, I know, but always worth it, and it helps make a difference! I’m really looking forward to seeing you, Daddy, and am only sorry your visit will be so brief. We’ll have fun here on the beach!
All my love to you,
Editor’s Note: The original letter was handwritten by Gale.