Simple Word: Hope


marilynBy Marilyn Varadi, Ph.D Hope is a simple word, but a most complex concept. It is the underlying principle that rules my life after living with ovarian cancer for 6 1/2 years. While I understand that seriousness of this disease diagnosis and have had innumerable treatments to maintain a stable state of health, I remain hopeful that a new treatment will buy me more time with a decent quality of life.

I continue to wear various amulets: a crystal around my neck, evil eye bracelets and the Kabballah red string (bindle) and at times even holy water from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Friends say prayers on my behalf at both temples and churches and I am remembered by prayers by various religious sects.

Do I believe or put credence in these various efforts that are designed to protect me and ensure my continued health? Probably not. How then can I understand that I remain hopeful in fighting this deadly cancer!

I wouldn’t describe myself a having strong religious beliefs, even though hope is one of the three virtues the Bible discusses. Paired with faith and charity, hope is defined as feeling that what is wished for is likely to happen. It involves a desire that is accompanied by the expectation of a positive outcome.

In Romans 5: 1-6 hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown. Faith seems an important part of hope, for in Hebrew 11:1 it is said that faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see. It therefore, seems that faith accompanies hope. This takes me by surprise, so apparently I am more of a believe than I realize.

I would define my credo as being generally optimistic: an outlook that focuses on positive thinking. I think of situations that could be worse and I seek a perspective that allows me to focus on the positives of the situation. Finding humor in negative things helps me turn matters around, as well.

In terms of daily living I try to be realistic. I make modifications taking stock of what I can and cannot do in order to live each day as fully as possible.

What has helped to take the focus off myself and not mired in self pity has been my ability to reach out to others in similar situations. We are not alone in our lostness may be the essence of caring. A quote from Living with Loss, Healing with Hope by Rabbi Carl Grollman, states “You are not alone in your journey through pain and crisis. One touch of sorrow makes the whole world kin.”

On a larger level; serving as an advocate for cancer education, encouraging legislative funding and supporting research in early detection adds meaning to my life, allowing me to answer the big question “What have I done with my life?” These endeavors might be termed Charity, the third of the Biblical virtues.

Of these three virtues, HOPE remains my life sustain value, and Hope for Life is my mantra.

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A thoroughly enjoyable book that answers so many questions about life – its trials and tribulations. Marilyn says it like it is! Paula Zahn

Emmy Award-winning journalist, television anchor, and host of On the Case

Marilyn’s voice was always clear, strong, and filled with wisdom. Linda Carter, PhD

Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, NYU Child Study Center