When a full course of antibiotics and prescription cough medicine didn't relieve my symptoms of a "bad bug" I trudged back to the doctors.

This time, he gave me a much stronger antibiotic. When I told him I had a nine-day headache that won't go away no matter what I take for it, he sent me for x-rays of my sinuses.

I never was bothered by a sinus problem and never even gave any thought to what they were. So I went to the place of learning many of us use the Internet.

How can one read about the intricacies of the human body and not come away impressed? I certainly was impressed with the workings of the sinuses.

According to the Internet, acute sinusitis, a common illness, often follows an upper respiratory infection. I figured that's what happened in my case. So I went for the X-rays that would confirm it.

I didn't think much of it when the technician redid my left side. That often happens. But alarm bells went off the next day with a call saying I had to return to the center for a follow-up cat scan.

I was even more alarmed when I learned they were needed to do a brain scan.

In 1984, a routine X-ray found a brain tumor. It was a traumatic time but prayers were answered when it turned out to be benign. I was warned I could develop future tumors.

Uh-oh! With my past history, this wasn't looking good.

In answer to my questioning, the technician said they needed to do the brain scan because they "found something" on the X-rays.

Double Uh-oh.

I'm not a fatalist but I am a realist. In the time between laying there in that machine and waiting in my doctor's office for the results, I was doing a lot of planning.

David and I decided if I needed surgery I would go back to Pennsylvania where medical care is better. I don't have to spell out the anxiety I was feeling as we waited for the results.

The bottom line is they didn't find a brain tumor. Thank you, Jesus.

For some, when "close calls" are over, they are gone from one's mind.

That's not the case with me. I believe that I got an extension of life. That's a privilege. But it's also a responsibility.

I believe my responsibility is to make my life count by filling it with meaning. For each of us, meaning is interpreted differently. For me, it means being attuned to God's plan and being willing to help others at every opportunity.

When traumatic things happen to us, they can be viewed as both good and bad. Back in 1984 when I had my brain tumor, in a strange way I knew it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It made me appreciate every bit of life with a real intensity.

I made a lot of vows to God in that hospital room and I've kept my promises.

I vowed back then never to waste one day of my life, to eliminate the superficial from my life and to seek true meaning.

This latest scare just emphasizes the need for me to do more while I still can.

A friend told me a Chinese proverb about a farmer who lost his home and his crops during a flood

"That's bad," his friends said.

"Good thing, bad thing. Who knows?" said the farmer.

Sure enough, in the rubble of what was once the farmer's home, they found oil deposits that made the family rich.

"That's good," said his friend.

"Good thing, bad thing. Who knows?" replied the farmer.

It's a long story proverb I don't have space to tell in its entirety. But its message is this: When bad things happen, sometimes that leads to something good. Or, at least it leads us to reassess our life. What we view as "bad" can lead to positive changes.

Sometimes the present may seem bleak because we can't anticipate anything better in our future. Yet, we all know stories that prove better things can come our way as long as we survive the present crisis.

"Close calls" hit us in the face with the fragility of life. We can be surrounded with the joys of life but then it all can change in an instant.

I had lunch with five women this week. One, like me, had a recent health scare while the other three were forced to have sudden lifestyle changes after being hit with an unexpected illness.

Life should come with a warning that says: "Fragile, handle with care."

Close calls reinforce that message.