Cancer lurks in the background of life, whether it be survivors or survivors of loved ones. It’s always within arm’s reach. Each follow up test, which go on forever, brings it full circle again. And then there are the others.
In a meeting. I know a co-worker has missed some days and is behind in her work. Not because her work is lacking, but because she told me she wasn’t feeling well. We are just finishing an hour of podcast strategy.
“How are you feeling, any better?” ask I.
She hesitates. She begins to recount her doctor visit. The words are familiar. I listen closely. A single tear slides from under her glasses, and then another and yet another.
The mothering heart inside me cracks. I know her doctor is preparing her. The words are the same though the message is vague in the beginning. She has three small children. She’s in her early thirties, maybe younger. She’s completing a master’s degree and working her butt off for her future. Her head drops to her lap, hands hiding tears.
“It’s okay. It’s okay.” I don’t know her well. “And even if it’s the news you fear, it will be okay. I’ve been there. I know it will be okay.”
She raises her head and looks with the same pleading eyes we all do at someone who’s taken the cancer journey before us. It’s the, “Tell me everything you know. What do I do? How do I do this? What about my kids?”
Her tiny, weepy voice says, “How will my kids live without me?”
“They won’t have to,” say I. “You’re too strong, too healthy, too badass for cancer.” The key is believing cancer does not have the power, that the power lies within. Enough days will come when it will be hard to believe. Opening the door to the cancer journey one must be armored for battle, clear that death is not welcome and ready to reach out–to those in the know, doctors of all stripes, holistic healers, and especially those who’ve traversed the battlefield.
How else will she know that when nausea hits in the middle of the night, it’s better to crawl to the bathroom than stand up so not to become more nauseous? Who will tell her it’s okay to question doctors and heed the voice inside her that screams out self care? How will she know people will come feed her children, clean her house and sit with her at chemo?
Until she negotiates her own path, she won’t. There is, however, a battalion of soldiers out there to help, to advise, to cheer and to weep. We can wring our hands that she’s young, that the disease is relentless, that this somehow seems so unfair. We could do that.
But we’ve got a another battle to wage.