Like most awful things that can happen in life, we tend to avoid thinking about them.
Because we “feel lucky today” as Mary Chapin Carpenter sings. Kid like super hero protected and pretty much bullet proof. Believing that the gruesome, painful only happens to other people in the news. Far away, in books and movies. To people we don’t know until it does occur right on schedule close to home. Do you feel lucky today?
My Mom died of colon cancer and I saw how spiritual she really was in the down to the bitter end fade away.
Not that anyone that knew her ever doubted her faith. She read, studied, practiced scripture application daily. She was grateful, felt blessed, more than just “lucky today”. Not afraid, rock solid and setting the tone to how everyone in the room should handle the chain of events.
When the doctor at Eastern Maine Medical spilled the beans with here’s the deal. Out of many options, they are all short straws. Take your pick. With the Penobscot River, sunshine beam, ice and snow in the background, behind her elevated hospital motorized bed. She smiled when he left the room, had reported, delivered the news. We studied her anxiously and calmly as she announced her decision, desire. Still smiling, gracious, composed.
Her approach to living, dying, cancer, whatever obstacle in the road ahead made it much easier for the rest of us in the room. Cut and dry because you honored her wishes. You accepted her approach to the take away of the end of her life. She was practical, realistic, grateful no matter what. Life. As it coasted, rolled to a stop. Swerved across the rumble strip and drifted into the break down lane. But she was in her eighties, had led a full healthy life up until the last few mile markers.
Brought four bouncing brown eyed boys into the World. Endured the fun and games, ups and downs of farming, running a business. Enjoyed, hand crafted a sixty plus year marriage. Working on a Maine farm against the weather, economy, the other twists and turns that pile up and age a person. Or provide crystal clear, 20 20 vision to be fully aware of living in just today. Not trapped, dragged handcuffed in barbed wire back into the past. Or racing too far ahead. Planning your future that may look a little different than you hoped, expected when and if you do actually get there. (Click). Dial in today on the meter settings. Then rip that knob off.
My secretary has cancer.
She is a fighter, feisty, determined and I have seen her shake off the little things quickly. That the rest of us without cancer track records don’t.
No time for worrying about the small stuff when you have bigger fish to fry.
More at stake and when quickly you see her evolve. Can not afford the luxury of friggin’ around when time’s a wastin’. It’s like a big test you knew was coming up but have plenty of time to prepare. Take it, pass it in, get your grade.
We dawdled, thought about that test off and on. But other stuff takes center stage, distracts, kills the time clock. You are relaxed. Then your day arrives when your friend has cancer changes your outlook, total approach to living. We joked it is like you are suddenly driving an old worn out VW beetle bug, some major hills to cruise over coming up. All you can see. So floor it, go in to them as fast as possible. To get as far as you can to clear them all. To stay healthy through the treatments that eat into your speed, momentum, limited horsepower with that small rear air cooled engine and no real heater for comfort.
The one six letter word cancer. It’s like someone turned off the loud music, switched off the tube. Shooed away the guests, took the phone off the hook, dead bolted the house doors. And focused all the energy, thought, passion, prayer and dedication into just one channel. To live today as if it was your last. To live fully, to the max no matter what it takes. No matter how many days any of us really has to spend on this blue and green marble. What if it was you with cancer?
Revamping all the old habits, kicking the vices out the door and suddenly a whole new you appreciation gets rolled out.
When you have an end in sight discussed around the medical charts and all the possibilities, odds, scenarios to prepare for the just in case. Not the way way out there death waiting that the rest of us see, have to consider. When it is not on our mind daily, and far away from here. But when the run way does not go on and on forever before lift off. Pulling up the landing gear one last time.
And a more outspoken but said in love new you enters the room.
The one that establishes the rules. My secretary is the quarter back. Memo sent out. “This is a no cry zone I know you love me, I know you care but if you keep crying, carrying on, it makes me feel bad. I feel responsible. But remember people, I did not raise my hand and volunteer for pick me pick me for cancer please. It chose me. If you want to help me, don’t feel sorry for me or how losing me would affect your life sadness please. Or do that on your own time.”
Pitch in, do what you can to help and sometimes it is just be there but not hovering. Over in the corner, out there but when recovering from all those time released bags of chemo cocktails hanging on the IV pole. Take a break. Please stand by.
It said with love but “just lighten up, back away and let me recover.” To not have to worry about oh oh, I hurt someone’s feelings because not up to tap tap tap like texting the reply to the how I am feeling today message. When it’s like a Mack truck or train or both tag team hit me for a few days. Like no other hang over sickness to date and you ache.
Or reaching out to make the many, not just one phone call replies when the folks surrounding you love you, want and need the latest answer status report to “how are you doing?” How do you help when someone you know and love has cancer?
I know someone who is going to be a cancer survivor because she is doing everything right.
Is focused, sitting down front in class. A model student, young, healthy in all the other ways and one gutsy, feisty, not going down without a fight determined lady. I bet you do too in your experiences, travels. Reach out and give them a hug but then ask what do you need me to do and do it. No tears, more roll up your sleeves and get to work to do your part. Be a friend. Be patient. Be grateful and look at your own life and adjust your priorities accordingly. It is sad it takes so long to learn but better late then never. It is never too late to start living because if you are not you are dying. Get busy, take your pick.