Being Grateful Despite My Health

Being Grateful Despite My Health

(Editor’s Note—Columnist Ellen Smith notes what she is grateful for—at the end of her column, share with us what you are grateful to have)

Sometimes I must pinch myself and make sure I really mean it when I say I am grateful. I have been living on the edge of life for so many years and am still alive, despite two incurable conditions. And yet, I am grateful and determined to try to not wallow in my sorrows and losses, no easy task, especially when I have my backward moments. But when you come close to death and then experience some improvement to the quality of your life, you become so grateful to even wake up, realize you are breathing and have another day to live.

Ellen Lenox Smith

Yes, I’m grateful.

As horrible as it is to get a diagnosis of any type, we must take the time to learn how to cope and search for ways to still have some quality of life. I just don’t know how else to live life except with some form of hope to hold to. So, I have taken my two conditions and decided to advocate to educate those in the medical field that are in the dark about how to help us with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Sarcoidosis, chronic pain, and cannabis. I also feel it is a moral responsibility in life to help each other. So, if something can’t hurt one but might offer help with someone with the same conditions, I share the information either in writing or speaking.

So despite the 25th surgery in December, and over nine catatonic episodes before a second neck fusion, I choose to be grateful for the good still in my life.

A few examples of what I am grateful for:

  • To still be alive!
  • A happy marriage to a man for over forty-six years
  • Four amazing adult sons we have had the honor to parent
  • Four magical grandchildren and another due in March
  • The love and assistance from my service dog, Maggie and our little rescue dog, Lilly
  • The love of reading, when dizziness cooperates
  • The love of gardening when I am able
  • The love of cooking, exploring new foods and ways to create them
  • Friends that have chosen to stick with me instead of the others that couldn’t handle my medical issues
  • Extended family scattered across the country
  • A new smaller home with lots of windows to let the sunshine in our home
  • My unitarian community we have the honor of knowing
  • The ability to find ways to still move the body despite my limitations
  • Walking again, leaving the wheelchair in the shed after four years of use
  • Breathing successfully with my BI-PAP
  • Doctors, nurses, family and friends that have learned to respect my condition and try to help ease the burdens

The list of things I am grateful for could go on and on. It would take nothing to turn this around and instead list all I am not grateful for, but I don’t want to be that person. There is a theory that what you focus on is very important to your well-being. It is easy to feel sad, targeted, picked on, left behind, hurting with pain, etc. but that only focuses on the negative. Despite the hardship one faces in life, there is good there too. So many times, I find positive that has happened in my life due to these medical struggles. We have met so many kind, giving, loving people on the journey to hold on to in our life. May you also find and hold on to the good that is there in your life as we approach Thanksgiving.

May life be kind to you,

Ellen Lenox Smith

Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain- And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website.

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4 Bear Paw #4C

CBD and THC help with pain and sleep yet cause GI gas and some cramping. IBS constipation. I take the tincture under my tongue. Any suggestions or feedback?


May you have the best life ever Ellen within your limits. My daughter and I are grateful for our roof, food, beds, creature comforts, my parents and her Dad, albeit my Mom has dementia in assisted living, my ex in a nursing home final stages liver failure. My Dad we are so thankful as he tries to help with visiting both “homes” to take meds, find remotes, lol.
My daughter as you know has severe EDS and Lyme damage. She is grateful for me, her rescue doggie. I am grateful for her.
Those who live with pain would be very grateful I know if they had an understanding healthy partner to help them. I wish that for all those suffering to not be alone in their pain. God bless you, Ellen and your family . Have best holidays possible.

Sandra Stedinger

Ellen — I am grateful for all the love, support and courage you give me through your column. I have Fibromyalgia, Migraines, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, etc. and any support on dealing with the multiple medical problems is appreciated. My wonderful husband, Jon, is the one who keeps my life going, and without whom I would not still be here.

Advice to others: find some friends who are getting old, chronically ill, or depressed, and phone or visit them regularly, as you are able. It gives both of us an emotional boost, and doesn’t take much energy. I called my Mother every day at the end of her life, sang songs, read prayers, and let her know that I loved her.


I’m grateful for my husband of 33 years, his understanding of my condition and his patience with me. I’m also truly grateful for our 2 grown daughters who are strong women with supportive husbands and my 1 and only grandson(at this time) and for the days when the pain is tolerable. I’m grateful for my doctor who listens and gives me her undivided attention during my appointment and does her best to help me without judgement!
Lastly, I’m grateful that when this life is over on this earth I will be in heaven with my parents and others who have passed on and NO pain or other conditions related to this worldly incurable disease.

Michael Kastner

Kudos to you !!

Michael Kastner

So well said Ellen. I read your writings and love your attitude towards life.
Be well. Continue to thrive !


I’m definitely Grateful for many things. My Family, my cat, who is a True companion, that makes me happy ,My wonderful Son and Grand-daughter and the small “Suddenlys” like seeing a Red Cardinal land on the window , and watch you through the window. And Grateful for God who never leaves us! 🙏

Judie Plumley

It would be easier to say what I am not grateful for than what I am not. Which would be nothing.
Years ago, when this pain thing started and I was in agony, I was angry, afraid, and did not know how to deal with what was happening to me. I wallowed in that state for several years. Then I decided I did not want to live my life bitterly. I started trying to take a day at a time. It took hard work but my attitude did change and I became at peace with myself.
I tried to exercise and take better care of myself. When the rods broke in my spine this spring, I was really grateful the doctor’s got me right in and fixed them immediately. I had pain meds again for the first time in 5 years.
I was taking my last bottle of pain meds when they found the cancer. If I had not lost my sight in one eye, no one would have ever known I had cancer and this had already spread. I know it is not curable. But because it was found I am being treated for it and I have pain meds now.
I also have this fantastic hubby I wish I could clone, and a whole host of friends and family who love me.
I have all of you too. Thank you all for reading and being a part of my journey.


I’m grateful that no matter what happens, I’m never alone. That I have a hope and a future, and a life where there will be no pain, no tears, no sorrow. I’m grateful for my life here. For those who have given me encouragement, and love. For my doctor who understands, and gives me what I need to help me in my pain, who has gone many extra miles to find out what it is that’s causing my conditions, and these terrible symptoms. I’m thankful I’m able to help others worse off than I am, because it is much, much more blessed to give, than to receive; however, I have learned to say yes, when I’m asked if I need, if I truly need the help. After all, we need someone else. All of us do. We cannot live our lives without someone, at sometime, giving us a helping hand. Mine has been the Lord, and my Savior Jesus Christ. But even He uses those who are around us as His help. Be thankful for the help you have. Do not ever complain to or about them. Only God knows what they are going thru too. I’m thankful to the people of NPR, for their time, efforts, and oversight, and compassion for those of us who are hurting and need a place of community; where there is an understanding, and a place to reach out to others. Thank you, NPR! I’m thankful for all of you out there too. All those who have written articles, and those who have shared their thoughts. I’ve learned so much from all of you. God bless you all, and may the Lord be your comfort as He has been to me, in the people, the places, and the divine interventions and timing which can only come from the One who knows the things about us best. Like Kermit said, “it ain’t easy being green.” it’s not easy, but we’ve made it this far. We can do this! Never give up beyond the thoughts of. Just think how far you’ve come! That’s what I’m thankful for! The rest is just down hill, because I’ve climbed a mighty steep mountain, and the view is beautiful! Only takes one step to get where you want to go. The first one counts the most!

Mary Gerdt

Great advice Ellen Lennox-Smith 😎👍🏼
I’m Grateful for Fred, and our new beautiful home in Virginia,
Memories, writing, drawing, my little cat Meela,
Family, Friends, Medical Team,
Twittersphere, My Blog.

Bram Judy Cast

I too feel grateful. Outside of my chronic condition and pain, I have a very good life . Great partner, great pets,friends and little things that make me happy!!