One of the positive aspects of having cancer is the people you meet. It happens in the hospital, at cancer happy hours (yes, they exist and yes, they are awesome-the first time I went I asked Mike, “Where do you think the group is?” as we entered the bar. He responded, “Well, I’m not entirely sure, but you might check with the group of baldies over there…I mean, it’s just a thought…”), through mutual friends (“You have cancer? Oh! My friend Jenny has cancer!! Therefore, you two are surely soul mates who share every thought and are exactly alike in every way.” Okay, I’m actually kidding with that sarcasm, as I really, really do enjoy meeting other people who can relate!), at the grocery store when you lock eyes with a stranger after realizing you’re both rockin’ the bald look, or in the elevator at the infusion clinic (there’s nothing to promote immediate bonding like you both pressing the dreaded 4th floor button and sharing a smile or you both visibly trying not to throw-up as the elevator – surely the rockiest in history – moves excruciatingly slow up the building.)
The point is, people with cancer are everywhere. And sometimes, only they who are walking the same rocky path as you can completely understand all you’re feeling, and all you’re facing.
Since I’ve only ever met one woman who has fought the same type of cancer as me, I am especially grateful for the Facebook group I belong to, a group made up entirely of PMBCL fighters (that’s primary mediastinal diffuse large b-cell non-hodgkin’s lymphoma to you!) It’s been such an incredible source of support and comfort to me. The one hundred and some members have listened patiently to my worries during my roller coaster journey with cancer (remission-maybe not!-biopsy clear-maybe not!, etc., etc.) They have sympathized with me when I complained about how insecure I felt after gaining new scars, losing my hair, and becoming puffy from prednisone. They have suggested remedies for my chemo-induced side effects. They have celebrated with me when I finally received news of my remission this month. And they have inspired me with their own stories of survival and perseverance. I am so thankful for them.
Yesterday, a member named Steve told us that he was checking into the hospital to begin the 21 day process of annihilating his current immune system with intense chemo, and then infusing his body with new, cancer-free stem cells (after already enduring many rounds of chemo and radiation.) In a sense, he is being re-born, and he is doing all he can to kick cancer’s butt once and for all. He asked that in his honor, we spend these next 21 days living life more fully than ever before, that is, with more love, more happiness, and more adventure.
In that spirit, John Paul and I have set aside the laundry (stop complaining and just wear your swim trunks under your suit, Mike!) and cleaning that desperately needs to be done.
(This picture is actually from a few weeks ago-hence my baby’s burn-free face, but the current state of our house is shockingly worse.)
We’ve left the dishes in the sink, set aside the mail that needs to be sorted, and crumpled up to-do lists (the crumpling was JP’s idea.) And instead, we’ve set off on adventures, spread love by spending more time with friends-both in person and on the phone, and done our best to whole-heartedly embrace happiness.
One way we’ve done this is by starting a tradition of eating breakfast by the bay, giving ourselves time to enjoy the boats, watch the early morning walkers, feed the ducks, and just be with one another. It has been lovely. And you better believe we’re going to keep looking for more and more opportunities for love, happiness, adventure, every day, everywhere we go.
And so, as we begin the weekend, I’d like to offer my friend Steve’s challenge to you: what are you going to do to bring more love, happiness, and adventure into your life?
Friends, I do not know everything Steve is going through. In truth, we’ve only ever met through Facebook, and I know little about his life. I’ve never had to face a stem-cell transplant, or say goodbye to my son for 21 days. But I do know what it’s like to have my spirit momentarily crushed by a cancer diagnosis. I do know what it’s like to wake up to the sounds of beeping machines in a hospital room in the middle of the night, longing for someone to talk to. I do know what it’s like to be tired and to struggle to find the strength to keep fighting. And wonderfully, thankfully, blessedly, I also know what it’s like to receive message after message of love and support. I know how important these words are, whether they come from friends, family members, or strangers. I know how often these messages carried me through my darkest days. And so, I would love to be able to send Steve this post, complete with messages of support and love, as he begins his 21 day journey.
Please leave a message for Steve below in the comment section. Let him know that you’re supporting him from afar, and tell him what you’ll be doing in his honor for the next 21 days to bring more love, happiness, and adventure into your life.