When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my friend Joan told me that I was going to meet some amazing people on this journey. She’s been absolutely right. The doctors, nurses, lab techs, and even the receptionist are truly amazing people. It’s rare that you find people so dedicated, so compassionate, so genuinely caring, so passionate about what they do. They genuinely garnered my respect and that’s hard to do.
But, despite the impression the medical staff has made, they aren’t the ones who’ve inscribed a permanent mark on my heart. That honor is reserved for the other people I’ve met who are on their own cancer journey.
For example, take Sylvia.* She has cervical cancer and had a complete hysterectomy – ovaries, uterus, cervix – the works, all gone. She traded in her childhood dreams of one day holding her own child for the hope of life. She endured six months of chemo followed by radiation. That was three years ago. Her cancer has come back. In a soft voice, she tells me she’s going through a round of eight chemo treatments and that if it doesn’t work, there’s nothing more to be done. She’s gambled it all and is playing the cards dealt and holding. Sylvia is still in her 20s. Her mother is with her. She turns her head so Sylvia doesn’t see her cry.
Or Lisa*. Lisa is as cute as they come – very tiny, long dark hair and eyes that could model for Cover Girl. Her husband came with her and clearly, he adores her. They were too cute to watch as he played contortionist, twisting himself in such a way as to have his head on the pillow with her and hold her hand while they started an IV. They have a 2-year old boy and a 6-year old daughter waiting for them at home. Lisa can’t begin chemo until her new son makes his arrival. They have another few months to wait. She’s there for some type of infusion to help keep her strength up while they wait. She doesn’t have a port yet and they had to start an IV. She cried. I gave her emergency chocolate.
The journey of people like Sylvia and Lisa, and so very many others like them, humble me – and they inspire me. At times, they break my heart and sometimes in the midnight hours when sleep eludes me, their stories haunt me. I have come to realize just how blest I am in my own journey. I’m surrounded by people who love me, pray for me, cook for me, and would slay dragons for me. My doctors say this is a battle that is very winnable. I have love. I have hope. I have life and life more abundant.
All of us will be touched by tragedy at some point in our lives. We lose a job, a loved one dies, we have a car wreck, illness touches us. All of us will suffer at some point in time. It’s simply is what it is. It’s part of the journey called life.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
© 2013 Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.