Sunday, August 14, 2011

Today is the Day!

It was FIVE years ago today. I went to see my doctor and mentioned to him that I had some pain and discomfort. So, we did a quick check and he let me know it was probably due to a lump and that lump was probably cancer. He was right on both counts. Today, five years later, I am blessed. I am a survivor.

My friend Bill, a survivor himself, talked to me early on about the responsibility we have when given the cancer diagnosis. There are two parts. The first is to fight every single moment of every single day until you're cured. Reminders come in strange places at unexpected times. I remember one time when, late in my radiation treatment, when I was feeling particularly tired and sick and more than a little weary, I had to go for yet another treatment. I was not looking forward to it. When I went in, I got to talking to a kid in the office waiting room and he was heading in for his chemo treatment. At 11, his burden seemed so much greater than mine, yet he was there and ready to go. Fight every moment of every day.

The second thing Bill talked about was the responsibility of the survivors. When you come out on the other side, you carry the light for those who are being diagnosed with this disease, to pass along the help, the inspiration, the courage, the knowledge of what it was that helped you become a survivor. I caught mine early. I had friends and family who supported me in amazing ways. I received incredible prayer support. I had amazing doctors and I live in the country with the most advanced healthcare system in the world. Beyond that, I had support from other people who had survived, who helped me understand what I was dealing with. They helped me understand doctors, become an advocate for myself, find information about the disease (I am one of those people who wants to know MORE, not less), access resources. Now, I find myself doing that for others, in the hopes that I can live out that part of Bill's vision.

It's also why I ride. In the past five years, with the formation of Team Fish or Cut Bait, we have now raised nearly $20,000 to fight cancer. This year, the Ride for FIVE was formed to commemorate my fifth anniversary as a survivor. My friend Alwyn, a two-time cancer survivor, calls it Carpe Diem Day, the day when he chose to seize control of his life and live it.

To Bill's two commands, I would add a third. Remember. Remember both those who have survived and touched our lives because they understand what it is to be a survivor, like Bill and Alwyn and Bev (who mentored me through so many ups and downs). And, remember those who have passed. As long as we remember their stories, their fight, their lives, and how they touched us, they didn't fight in vain. I choose to remember the good things they taught me, what they showed me of courage and humanity. I remember Bob's unyielding faith, how he felt not that he was passing this world so much as he was simply going home. And Terri's light, her humor and her smile, the way the whole world seemed better just because she was in it. I remember Collin's bravery and the joy of how much he loved his family, and was loved by them, and how that love continues to spread. I remember Lucy and how brightly she shone, if only for a moment, like the world could not contain that much for any longer than it did; but like the brightest shooting star, I can still see that light when I blink my eyes and think of her. And Beth, who brought so much love to every thing she did, and when she left, she made sure it stayed with the people she touched.

I promise to carry the light. I promise to fight. And, I promise to remember.

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