When I learn that someone I know or a friend of a friend has just been diagnosed with cancer, my eyes react with a quick sensation of burning tears. It doesn’t matter what cancer I’m hearing about; the visceral reactions from my mind and body strike me to pray for what that person will need the most: strength.
The kind of strength needed to deal with cancer treatment in the early days of getting it to daily radiation transforms into the quiet strength needed just to let go and find some sleep in a dark bedroom. Then there is the strength of knowing that just getting out of bed on some days is an act of bravery. Strength appears in the conversations with your children, who, too, are becoming stronger because they have to be. You hold them and tell them that you’ll be all right; that there will be some tough days, but that everything will work out in the end. And then walks in the quivering strength because you know that you really don’t know any of that for sure. Strength takes your hands as you are wheeled into yet another surgery. Gentle strength wells up and says, “God bless you, Dr. C,” because you trust him once again to be strong for you, using all of the skills he has to be perfect in his work.
Rock solid strength takes a stand when you’ve had complications and your adjuvant chemotherapy is postponed and you fear that the errant cancer cells will take up residence somewhere before you’ve had the chance to give this battle everything you’ve got.
Formidable strength shows you the way to get through six more months of chemotherapy, seemingly endless, full of questions about coping with times of fear and weakness.
And though it took a team to deal with this cancer: your doctors, the nurse practitioners, the social worker, the chaplain, the chemo nurse who still sends you Christmas cards, the valet guys outside of Yawkey, the sweet little children you walk by who are dealing with cancer when they should only have joy, Jill, your friends, your children and family; when you finish all of that treatment, you feel that you have done something heroic. And you have. Many times you had to lend your strength to others to make sure they were not overwhelmed by it all. You had to smile through it all to help your children smile. Pain become a companion for so long but your long walks toward your future made it seem less.
Ten years later, strength of heart keeps you in love with birthdays, especially your own and the strength of your soul helps you in those moments, usually in a darkened bedroom in a quiet home when you worry if it will ever come back. Asking yourself, would I have the strength I need to get through? And the answer comes, strong and clear: you’ll do what you have to do. In the morning, swing your legs over the side of the bed, pull on your walking shorts and your socks, tie up those sneakers, and go for a walk in the fresh air.