There was a point during my treatments, as I sat waiting for blood-work and Dr. Kohler, I noticed something that changed my outlook about having cancer. An elderly man opened the door for his wife, who had clearly been undergoing treatments. He supported her as she walked through the door and they slowly shuffled by. But I had already grown accustomed to something you don’t ordinarily experience in waiting rooms or in public: The woman turned to me and our eyes met and our gaze did not falter for worry or insecurity, but rather pushed through some unseen barrier and wrapped right around my heart.
“Why, you’re too young,” she said. And her husband’s kind eyes joined hers and we shared this moment where, having just met, we had known each other all along. An odd familiarity, a connection that supersedes politics, race, age, sex, religion, and just exists in the moment.
During radiation treatments, I met a man who was so weak, he couldn’t lift his head. The thrush he had developed in his mouth made it difficult for him to speak and yet, when his chair was parked beside me, he made it a point to look over and smile. I reached over and held his hand. We just remained there, present in the moment; not letting the outcome of either illness consume us; we shared in something no cancer could kill.
There were so many people; many who have passed on, who showed me surviving cancer isn’t about surviving an illness, it’s about rising above it. In that sense, we all won. We all beat it.
Now I look for those people whose eyes reveal something deeper; some connection to this underlying knowledge; some sense of what it means to love someone, to share in something larger than ourselves – to rise above it. As Lauren’s mom would say, “They get it.” And they make life worth anything illness or the unexpected can throw our way.