Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My fellow warriors

I began this blog in March of 2013 as a means to chronicle my cancer journey. It was a longer, harder journey than I could have ever imagined and in the last months I have hoped that I would continue my blog with insights about life, hope, faith and living.  Two weeks ago, I reached a huge milestone—one that hopefully will mark the END of this two and a half year “season”. On July 2, I had minor surgery to remove my port—the device imbedded under my skin on my chest in which all my blood work was taken and all my chemotherapy drugs were infused. At my last oncology visit, my doctor said, “Ports are for people who need more chemotherapy and you DON’T!” He said it with such joy and conviction and I left that day feeling like I could really close this chapter. That doesn’t mean that not a day goes by that I don’t wonder if it could come back, if it has spread, if I will fight and journey again. But I don’t let it consume me—it is there, always, but I choose to take each day for what it is—a true gift—and I live with purpose and intention and joy (as I have said so many times in my blog posts).

Today as I write I feel strong and energetic and alive. I am running, hiking, spinning, and training for a triathlon in October and a half marathon in November. But my heart is sad and heavy. My mind and my spirit are grieving. In the last few months, a few friends who were diagnosed after I was, have passed away. These deaths have hit me hard. One friend died in April after 18 months with brain cancer. She leaves behind two beautiful sons—one who is Noah’s good friend and soccer teammate. Although she lived a great life and imparted so much wisdom and love to her boys, she still left this earth way too early. Two weeks ago, an amazing man in our Young Life community passed away from liver cancer. He was our age, and left behind his wife and two sons, who are Noah and Micah’s age. His servant heart, his love for God, and his faith were unwavering until his last moment. Though I was not good friends with him, I followed his journey and felt empathy for his family. He also left this world way too early.

Last week my sweet, humble, and gentle friend made the decision to discontinue the chemotherapy and radiation that she has endured for the past 20 months. She was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer about four months after me. Her journey has been much rougher than mine. Her treatments have left her weak and tired and her cancer spread to many places in her body. She is valiant, courageous, beautiful and strong. Making this decision for quality of life for her remaining time is a hugely bold choice for her and her family. It is a choice made with love, faith, peace, and assurance. And yet it breaks my heart. I am sad, I am weak, I feel like I have been sucker punched in the gut. I can’t sleep. I pray for her and her family and I read scripture to give me hope and faith to endure this grief.

I am writing this blog entry with anger, with questions, with confusion, with doubt, and yet also with joy and assurance. My anger toward the insidious cancer compels me to fight—with the life I still have—for more education, more awareness, more money, and more understanding to find that damn cure for this disease. My questions, confusion and doubt are normal—for anyone who wonders “why?” We have to feel this, we have to question, we have to shout out, we have to grieve, we have to process. We don’t know the answers to why some people get cancer and some don’t, why some people make it through and some don’t, why some people get it and it comes back. We won’t know. But I also write with joy and assurance. The joy that life is lovely and that eternal life is much lovelier. The assurance that I have a Savior who has chosen me, and my friends, and who promises a life with no pain or sorrow after this earthly life.

But before I end, I want to make an emphatic point. It is about a phrase that I hear often in the news, the obituaries, and benign comments people make when referring to cancer. I don’t want to get caught up in semantics and I don’t want anyone to feel bad if he/she has used this phrase. I simply want to educate. 

Here is the term I hear: “So and so LOST their courageous battle with cancer.”  

Friends, every person I know who has taken the journey with cancer NEVER loses. Cancer is an evil disease, and it spreads and it takes over, but my fellow cancer survivors and sojourners never lose to it. We live and we fight with everything we have. We fight with our attitude and our prayers and our choices and our physical strength (when we have it). If you have ever been in an infusion center at a cancer hospital, you would never again use the word “lose”. You see hope, laughter, joy, resilience, patience and peace. You see it in the nurses, caregivers, doctors, and patients. You see bravery, strength, valor, compassion—all while people are sitting in chairs with chemo drugs dripping into their bodies for hours at a time. Every time I left the infusion center, I may have been physically weak, but I was stronger with my attitude, my faith, and my hope.

My friends with cancer are warriors. We never lose the battle. We fight and we win. In life, in death, in hope, in eternity—we WIN.

Stuart Scott, the sportscaster who died of cancer at 49 earlier this year, said it best:

"When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."


Amen Stuart—fighter, warrior, winner!

1 comment:

Joy Schumacher said...

Well said, ending with my favorite quote! Congratulations on finishing your treatments! I am sorry for your losses, and empathize with your feelings. As a 17 year survivor, I still can not understand why I feel sadness, anger, grief, helplessness when others I know succumb to this awful disease. All I can do is to continue to fight with prayer, support and my work with the American Cancer Society in hopes of finding a cure. Keep moving forward, keep up your faith and God bless you.

Joy