Stand Up

This morning I'm finishing up my morning whatever-ness, which included putting together a thank you note for the goody bags for this upcoming golf tournament (which is in and of itself another entry) and I stop to watch the segment on the Today show about an upcoming movement called Stand Up to Cancer. All three major networks are donating an hour of prime time air time on September 5 to raise funds for the "dream teams" and cutting-edge innovative research grants. I don't know if it was just the timing, but the PSA got me...

For some reason I was taken back to the program the first night of last year's 3-Day. I was tired, and bald and my eyes were constantly twitching and tearing and puffy. I dreaded the sun going down because I knew I would have to take off my sunglasses. There we were, having finished dinner, listening to the emcee (I'm not sure what she was really called) talk about various things. I think they were doing recognitions of teams or people or something, and at the end, she asked the survivors to stand up. One by one people started standing. Some jumping up jubilantly, some arm in arm, some rising slowly, hesitantly, as if they weren't sure where exactly they fit in. Yet, the people standing were so few in comparison to the masses that were present. And then, there was me. Although I should have been used to this drill by now, I still sat there quietly and tried to remain un-noticed until Greg gently (?!) nudged my arm. Slowly I rose to my feet, listening to the applause of those around me, seeing the teary eyes of Greg and Larry and Jan, knowing that at that particular time, I needed to stand up and be (proverbially) counted because it was a reminder of why every single person in that room was there. That's what the PSA reminded me of.

Pretty powerful stuff. To me, at least.

Now that the major battle is over, I find myself struggling with whether or not one person truly can make a difference. A cancer diagnosis doesn't automatically make someone a kinder, gentler person or turn on some magical light switch that prevents them from taking things for granted or enabling them to suddenly live the way they "should". It also doesn't have the power to change those around them. It's kind of an oxymoron though, isn't it? While we can't give cancer the power to move mountains, even in a positive way, it is undeniable that once someone is touched by the demon, they are never quite exactly the same.

I've seen the subtle changes in myself - which have been different each time I've dealt with this, and I've seen the subtle changes in those around me. What I've learned, is that cancer doesn't necessarily make someone hold another tighter, or live each moment as if it were their last at all times. Then again, what would that be like anyhow? The more I live, the more I think about it, I'm pretty certain I wouldn't want to forgo day-to-day normalcy, even with its chaos and uncertainty at times for the constant feeling of desperation from trying to live each moment in preparation for the end. Because the truth is, none of us know when that day will come - cancer or no cancer. Does that, in fact, mean that we *should* be living each day like our last? I don't know the answer to that. I don't know that it's entirely realistic, even with the best of intentions. Then again, sometimes I simply get overwhelmed by the gratitude and enormity and the realization that yes, I have been given a stay of execution. For now? For ever? That part, I simply don't know. I don't think it has any bearing on whether or not I'll leave a 'legacy' or a 'lasting impression' and I'm fairly certain that it has no bearing on whether anyone will love me any more or any less because of it.

I suppose all I can do is to make every effort to treat people the way I'd want to be treated. Then again, I didn't need cancer to teach me that concept. So it goes.

Tina, from my office, started chemo today. They're hitting her hard with Adriamycin, Cytoxan, and Taxotere all at the same time. Ugh. Just plain friggin' UGH. I've made every attempt to pay it forward - to pay homage to all the people that stepped in and lifted me up in prayer and with kindness and strength and hope - now is my chance to be able to do that for someone else. She told me that while of course, this should never happen to anyone, she is thankful that I am her to help her through this. That perhaps I am her guardian angel, and maybe I was supposed to be here. From my perspective, all I can do is keep showing up - apparently it does make a difference. It's been difficult at times, knowing that I am all too aware of the journey she is about to embark on. This time, it's not my battle though and I have made every effort to remind her that while nothing is curable, everything is treatable, and to not EVER let anyone tell her what she can't do, or feel like a statistic. I hope, at the very least, it helps to take a look at me and know that it is possible to get to this stage of stability.

We plan, God laughs.
Me? I can only try to pay it forward.
Living art, indeed.


    On May 28, 2008 at 9:30 PM Anonymous said...

    Amen, my dear. Beautiful post. **HUGS!!**

    For the record, I was only crying because my feet hurt! :)