The right mental attitude

This photo was taken exactly one week before everything changed. Jeff and Drew were on their way to watch the Nats play the Marlins, 9-9-12.

This photo was taken exactly one week before everything changed.
Jeff and Drew were on their way to watch the Nats play the Marlins, 9-9-12.

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” — author unknown, often falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson

Just the other day, Jeff sent me this quote because he knew I would like it; I knew, too, that he liked it.  What he did not know was that it would involve yet another instance of my featuring his photo on this blog, something he always complains about.  I try to keep it to a minimum, out of respect for his privacy, but sometimes I cannot help myself.

I can’t think of any other person whose photo more fits this quote.  It’s interesting because I’ve often accused Jeff of being a negative thinker, a pessimist who rains on my fantasy parades, whose blunt commentary cuts through the gauzy mists of my daydreams.

It has taken the past two and a half years for me to realize that what I think of as pessimism has another side.  No determination is stronger than that borne of grim realism coupled with firm resolve to overcome nearly impossible obstacles.

Note that the quote does not mention “a positive attitude,” but rather, “the right mental attitude.”  Sometimes, there is little that is positive about a situation other than our ability to choose how we respond to it.

For all of his taciturn skepticism, Jeff’s response to the disease that has ravaged his body has been astoundingly, almost unbelievably strong.  That he continues to work full time, not just on his job but also at home, defies all logic, given the medical trauma of the past 30 months, the harsh facts of his condition, and his acute awareness that the suffering likely will continue.

Despite every evidence to the contrary, his continuing strength makes it almost impossible for me to believe that he is not going to beat this and live for many more years.  But whatever happens, he has given me the invaluable gift of sustaining, for over two years, a more normal life than I would have thought possible when the nightmare first began.

Early in the diagnostic process, when we were delivered news that seemed to get progressively worse, one blow after another, we had returned from an all-day session at Walter Reed that included a very discouraging meeting with the oncology staff.  That night, while Jeff was out to pick up some takeout food for dinner, one of the residents called.  He reported that the tumor board had met to discuss Jeff’s case again after we left, and they wanted to do an additional scan; they suspected there might be yet more undetected tumors.

“Would this change the treatment plan?” I asked.  No, I was told, it would not. I asked him why another scan, given that the treatment plan was to go forward regardless of what it said.  Why did we need more bad news?

“Because it might help you to adjust your expectations; we don’t want you to be anticipating that we will do any surgery.”

I knew two things at that point: one, that they certainly had me pegged; and two, that I was so angry I couldn’t contain myself.

“I know something about my husband none of you know,” I was shouting now, but I didn’t care. “He is strong as an ox.  We don’t need our expectations adjusted any more than they already have been.  Go back and tell the tumor board that we aren’t doing any more scans until the treatments have had a chance to work.”

After I hung up, I felt scared to tell Jeff what I had just done.  I thought he would be angry because I had shouted at the doctor and voiced a decision that rightly belonged to him. When Jeff returned and I confessed, he laughed — LAUGHED! — and said he agreed with me.  No more scans until later.  I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know how the past two years have unfolded, and how Jeff has more than proven my assertions about his strength.  Those of you who know him well, also know that his faith has been the foundation of his remarkable stamina.  I am so thankful that the mercies of God are truly new every morning.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that Jeff has already won this battle regardless of the final outcome.

His attitude — the right attitude — is an inspiration to me, as I know it has been to many others.  Thanks for letting me pay tribute to him here.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    I have not commented in quite a while. Still, I’m enjoying the reposts every day. I must admit, this post is certainly one of my favorites. I’ve read all the comments from the original post in 2015, and I am breathless. Your characterization, and the adorning commentary, are truly inspirational. I would have loved to have known Jeff.

    • Thank you Chris. It is more than a little ironic that this post is appearing today according to the pre-set schedule. I am drawing on my “inner Jeff” right now. One week ago I got up to use the bathroom, blacked out, fell on the tile ledge of my soaker tub (apparently that’s what I hit, based on the blood spatters and puddles on the wall and floor) and suffered massive facial trauma. My maxillary bone structure, I’m told, is a crumbled mess. Four of my top front teeth (the center ones) are gone, and they are trying valiantly to save the others, with no guarantees. They plan to do bone grafting in August, after the trauma has had time to heal, but are already warning me that the grafts may not “take” well enough to allow implants or other reconstruction. My nose was also smashed/broken but the surgeon on Monday was please with how it is healing. My once-lovely smile took one for the home team, because my brain was spared. In that, I feel blessed, and my many medical friends (who have been a real Godsend in all this) agree with me on that. When I came to and figured out what had happened (at first I thought I was having a nightmare) I looked at the clock, which I had noticed said 2:07 am when I first got up. When I saw that the clock now said 2:27 am, I was shocked to realize I had been “out” for 20 minutes! That, and the gushing blood, made me realize I needed to call 911. Lots of suffering in the past week, and more to come, but praise God I will (hopefully) be able to be with Matt in his upcoming heart surgeries this year (valve replacement very soon). I have never needed the prayers more– and this post, like many others, turns out to have been planted in advance to strengthen me in worst thing that has ever happened to my own body. Thanks for being here — please pray!

      • cjbeam79

        Oh my! Julia, I am so sorry to hear this! 😢. You will be in my prayers daily for continued strength, endurance and hope! God is with you and He will provide blessings each day. Some days are just harder to see those blessings, but they are there! I’m sending you a PM.

        • Thank you Chris. I never go on Facebook anymore except when people tell me they’ve messaged me there, so it’s good you alerted me to the message. I really appreciate the prayers!

      • mike c Bertoglio

        Prayers Julia. Does Raynard know about this??

        • Thank you Mike. Yes, Raynard and Mary know. I will keep them posted on how I’m doing.

      • Sheila

        Julia, I’m at a loss for words! I’ll be doing double duty as a prayer warrior to make up for lost days of not knowing! You are the most incredible person and I know your strength is God given in bunches. I am so so sorry. Prayers are crossing the miles right this very minute! I love you dearly ❣️

        • Sheila, thank you so much! Your prayers have been supporting us for a long time. ❤

  2. Carol Hoyos

    Dear Julia, I’m at a loss for words, but know a candle is lit and prayers are being said. ❤️

    • Thank you Carol. ❤

  3. Good morning, Julia!
    I just love this about the “right” mental attitude instead of just a “positive” attitude.
    Thank you for sharing this additional insight into your life with Jeff.
    I’m praying for you.

    • Thank you, Susan.

  4. Judy

    Our dear Julia, and I say “our” because your writings have set you in the hearts of your readers over these many years, please know that you’re in many prayers for healing, comfort and continued inner strength. You are precious and the news of your accident is such a shock. I want to just give you a big hug but I’m too far away, so here’s a digital card for you I hope each day gets easier. Love, Judy

    • Thank you so much, Judy. I’ve been intending for a long time to send you a postal letter (during the pandemic I rediscovered my love of postal correspondence) so now I can include this latest chapter. I treasure your friendship and I hope, trust and pray that you will be able to see my newly-reconstructed face as soon as I’m able to travel again! Lancaster County will be a healing place to be! ❤

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