Over time, you learn that life takes control. It has a way of testing your will, of working itself out, and unfortunately, life also has a way of hitting you with an unexpected crisis that forces you to change your course entirely. This past weekend I participated in an event put on by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that raised awareness, support, and gave light to all of those who were hit with one of life’s most challenging unexpected crises- cancer.
It was on a Saturday night when most of my friends were out conversing together, while I was by myself, it was on the coldest date so far this month- it was freezing actually…and with both of these factors combined, it was a pretty uncomfortable three hours. However, in the big picture of life, those few hours were merely a moment. A moment of discomfort to give attention to those who spend an elongated portion of their lives in discomfort. It was a moment to give support to those who were not able to return to their warm homes after being subjected to a hospital twin bed, to those who were not able to meet their friends out after a long day of treatments, and to those who fought as hard as they could- but didn’t make it to see today.
The harsh reality about cancer is that no matter how healthy you eat, how frequently you work out, how much money you have, how smart you are, where you’re from, or who you know, cancer shows no mercy. We all have the same odds, and no matter what, no one is ever ready for it. But when it comes, it makes you take a step back to look at your life, where you’ve been, and consider where you’re going to go. You ask yourself “how will I do it?” As someone who has stood by the sides of many cancer survivors, as well as people who have succumbed to cancer’s evil, I can confidently tell you that you’re doing it, and you’re working towards doing it every day. Every day that you wake up, every saltine you eat, every cup of Chaga you drink, every chemo treatment you show up to, every port access, every scan, every day you fight like hell to make it to the next day- you’re doing it.
The event I was at featured fellow supporters, people present in memory of someone, and survivors. After talking to survivors and listening to what they had to say, each had a unique understanding of cancer, but a common trend in all of their journeys was their will to live. All humans have an intrinsic fierce desire to live and live well, and while the biology of cancer will dictate its course for most people, the power of the mind helped so many of them transcend their problems and live to see the next day. The mind helped them stay resilient while engaging in one of life’s curveballs.
One survivor that spoke gave remarks on her initial feelings of isolation. She would enter chemo rooms and sit there alone, thinking about her old social routines and all of the people she would see while doing them- going to the gym, out with friends, to church, to the mall, out to dinner, and even just for a walk around her neighborhood. Now, she looks back and realizes that she was never alone and this helped her fight. She had scientists researching blood transfusion success, oncology teams delivering her the care she was getting, other patients that were on the same journey, and the nurses and doctors that helped her each day. So as a healthcare provider, you do more than just show up to your work shift every day, you make a personal difference in the lives of your patients. Not only do you aid their recovery, but you make them feel valued, and as a person who is close with so many patients and survivors- thank you.
I have come to realize and had it confirmed this past weekend, that pain is the seed of transformation. For all of these patients the greatest part of their lives, seeing today, had its origin in their times of greatest suffering. If life has no pain, joy will be undervalued. That seemingly uncomfortable moment I engaged in turned out to be one of the more beautiful moments I have been a part of. The true bliss I felt that day for all of the cancer survivors there and in my life raised the bar for what true happiness should feel like for me.
Like most of the writings on my page, I will reflect on what this experience taught me and pass it on to you. Be bold, be venturesome, and be willing. Be willing to experience every day for all that it can be and enhance life’s enjoyment. We all have the capacity to live every day better than the one before and the fierce desire to live on so make it count. While nourished by hope, the power of the mind will help us achieve the sublime feelings of knowing and experiencing the wonders of life and appreciate them. For all of the cancer survivors that this may reach, thank you for being models of life for others. Thank you for fighting, for having a sense of wonder, and for being here today. You are strong-minded, strong-willed, and strong-hearted individuals that have achieved the ultimate win in life- seeing today.