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Tenaciously Stubborn: How the good kind of stubbornness can actually save our lives

By Kathleen Aharoni

She kept returning to her gynecologist and insisting that she be checked again. Her doctor, though, kept telling her that her bloating and not feeling like her usual self were just symptoms of menopause. She persevered in her self-advocacy, and an ultrasound eventually revealed that she had ovarian cancer; at least that was the initial diagnosis.

When Joyce Jann’s surgeon cut her open to remove the ovarian tumors, he instead found a rare, deadly cancer called mucinous adenocarcinoma, which had manifested in her appendix. Her oncologist told her to go home and put her affairs in order.

Being a woman of great faith, Jann, instead, prayed for the strength to live in trust of God as she faced the fear of the unknown. She, together with her family, began intense research to find better possibilities than her oncologist offered. Their tenacity paid off. They found several centers that could work with her rare cancer.

So, she had two more surgeries. Before the third—the one that would ultimately save her life—Jann’s doctor asked her in the preop interview whether she wanted to live. “Whatever the Creator decides,” she answered. Her surgeon told her that she needed to change her attitude, or it might not be worth the surgery. His implication was that Jann be a part of that decision; that she be tenacious about living rather than remove herself from this vital choice.

T-E-N-A-C-I-T-Y. Tenacity, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, is the quality or condition of “holding or tending to hold firmly; persistent; stubborn.” Tenacity, a quality that we each possess, actuates health mastery and can save a life, as Jann’s did for her.

Within tenacity there can be no ambivalence, such as leaving a decision up to someone else—even the Creator. We are all choosers, all of the time. The more often we exercise our capacity and privilege to choose, the more likely we are to manifest our desires, even when they involve life and death. Jann took her surgeon’s advice and changed her attitude. She became decisive about choosing to live, in her actions as well as her faith and belief.

And, again, Jann chose within tenacity the positive force of resoluteness that catalyzes action, supports will and declares to all our internal and external systems, “I’m worth it! I am a whole, valuable life!” Jann—in her perseverance with her gynecologist to be heard when she knew something was wrong, in her search for doctors who could help, in her prayers for strength to face her fears—was successful in moving her life forward to support her will to live.

As humans, we evolve through a systemic tenacity. Consider our developmental patterns. We roll over for the first time, usually, because something catches our attention, instigates our will and causes our nervous system to organize in a way that we can obtain our choosing—a toy or person, for instance. We all have stories about the object or person that first motivated us to walk. I walked to grasp a cinnamon stick. Jann’s surgeon was brilliant to ask whether she was motivated to
survive her diagnosis and the necessary surgery. His question engaged her will.

And where there is a will, there is a way. Know that you don’t need to be diagnosed with a terminal illness or just not feel well to engage your tenacity for your well-being. For all aspects of your life, ask the question: “Is what I’m doing/thinking/believing moving me forward?” If your beliefs, actions and/or thinking are keeping you in the status quo or holding you back, choose and behave differently. Just take a step—any forward step. You can always alter your direction or add variation to your movement. And, if you need help, be sure to ask. Call on friends, families, medical and mental health professionals, other professionals, support groups, etc. The possibilities for information, consultation, creativity and advocacy are many.

“If your gut tells you something is not right, get another opinion,” Jann says. “Keep searching for answers. Don’t give up. Be a fighter.”

Be tenacious about your life.  Be tenacious about thriving.

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