Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Breast Cancer, Never Give Up

At a benefit for breast cancer in East Peoria, world-famous Sylvia McNair sang music from Broadway and opera. Between songs she spoke of her battle with cancer and how crucial her community of close friends had been to her recovery. 
She did not lecture about the disease, nor did she tell us how we had to fight the beast of breast cancer. She simply talked about her struggles and shared what enabled her to get through the chemotherapy, surgery, doubt and despair. She did not hide from how hard the battle was, or how scared she had been when she thought she was going to die.

Her smile was proof that the beast of cancer could be beaten.

She spoke of her joy and hope as well as her sorrow. A friend from her hometown had also been diagnosed with the same kind of cancer and at the same stage. Although they received the same treatment, her friend died. “It’s just not fair,” Sylvia said. And it isn’t.  

We do not know everything that will happen to us in the future. We like to think that we know everything, but deep down we know that we don’t control much that goes on in the universe. We like to think that the life we have today will go on forever, and we conveniently forget how many times the unexpected has happened, for both good and bad. We become so focused on keeping our lives the same that we forget that life is for trying new things, deepening relationships, and discovering more of the wonders in the world.

Cancer does not mean impending death, but it does mean a fight.

We are constantly facing new challenges. We always have some struggle going on. If we don’t, then we’re not risking enough. We’re not taking enough chances. We are not living; we’re just going through the motions and getting through. What is memorable about that?

When a serious illness like cancer upends our life and we are pushed to the limits of our endurance, we discover how strong we really are. We discover resources within ourselves that we didn’t know existed.

When we are down on our knees pleading for help, we discover how transforming is the healing power of compassion. We discover people around us who are willing to help. Not everyone is willing, but enough, and we are grateful.

World Cancer Day is Feb. 4. We all know people who have battled cancer. We all know people who have had breast cancer. Those who have survived have been ordinary people who got angry and fought back. If you suspect something might be wrong in your body, don’t put it off. Get it checked out. Get a second opinion if the first doctor doesn't find anything. This is your life. Fight the beast of cancer.

When the future looks bleak, McNair’s message was simple: “Do not give up hope. Ever.”

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