top of page

“Happy Happy” Even With Cancer & Other "Little Episodes"

I arrived at the Capital Oaks Retirement Resort, a three-story high mile long senior living complex, I came to have dinner with a former and favorite parishioner of mine, also a fellow lung cancer survivor, who now called Capital Oaks home.

“My doctors tell me I've got the best attitude, and they wish all their patients could be so positive. One told me ‘Ms. Janet, you're the luckiest unlucky patient I have ever seen.’ They’re all Amazed.” I asked Janet to walk me through the timeline of her cancer and all the other health challenges she had faced. She happily obliged. * 2003, Diagnosed with breast cancer. Receives chemotherapy and radiation. * 2010 Diagnosed with lung cancer. Undergoes surgery to part of her lung and receives chemo and radiation again. * 2005-2010, Janet undergoes six knee replacements. She's a rare case in which the knee will move out of place. * 2012 The lung cancer metastasizes to her lower esophagus and to her neck. Receives chemotherapy and radiation. Doctors tell Janet she will live 1 more year. (Eight years later, they are still watching the tumor in her lung.) * 2013 Heart bypass surgery. Doctors discover her heart disease. * 2019 Routine shoulder surgery abated when her heart stops. It’s unbelievable that one sweet old lady would have to endure so much. She has elected not to receive more treatment for her lung cancer because so much else is wrong. The only thing more unbelievable is her indestructible “Happy Happy.” “Janet, how can be so happy and joyful? How is that possible? You’re amazing.” “Oh it’s not me, she said. It’s all God. I grew up in church. Faith in God has always been part of my life.” I knew there was more to the story. Janet gladly shared with me how in 2003 she had a special, spiritual, life changing moment in church.

“I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was sitting in worship when these words of scripture were read.

“Janet, tell me something that has made you happy recently.” “My son, Michael, and his children came from California to spend Christmas with me. That made Being with my daughter, Michelle, she takes me to all my appointments, just being with her makes me very happy. Being here makes me happy.” “What makes you happy now?” “People make me happy, being with other people. I'm very happy to see you. I’m delighted you called. I'm also happy when I'm alone in my apartment and sitting in my recliner being able to do what I want to do. I'm grateful to be able to still think, talk, and do things I like to do. I like to listen to Pandora radio. I like the classical new age piano channel. Sleeping in makes me happy. For many years in my work as a nurse I had to get up at 3:30 in the morning. It’s nice to sleep in.” “What are you looking forward to that makes you happy?” “My granddaughter is graduating from college on May 15. I'm very happy about that. I’ll also be happy for us to have dinner together again. Next time, please bring Amy.” After dinner, Janet showed me her apartment where we sat and talked longer. She wanted to know more about my family, Amy and each of our children, and me and my health. As I prepared to leave, she showed me the large letters her son had cut out of wood for her that spelled “Happy.” He had placed them at the top of her bookshelf where she could see them often and easily. I snapped a picture of it and the two of us, promised to come again, and with that our “Happy Happy” date came to a happy ending.

Originally published at 1/20/20

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page