“You have cancer.”
I gasped. The doctor said these words to my husband after a week-long hospital stay which included an assortment of medical tests to determine the source of his unexplained pain. We were forced into the battle. No swords, no shields, no plans in place; however, the battle against cancer had begun.
After the shock wore off, I will always remember the next conversation with my husband when the doctors left the room to give us privacy to cry together. The first words my husband said were: “I’ll fight this thing.” Tears of gratitude poured down my cheeks. No amount of support from others could replace the soul-wrenching truth: initially, the battle has to be fought by him and him alone. Only then can he move on and get outside help, too.
While the individual battle belongs to the patient, the overall fight is a community effort. Who makes up the community? It’s amazing to discover the multitude of resources that bond together in this cancer world. For starters, I was impressed with our team of medical professionals who seemed to take the word “doctor” to a new level. I had never before experienced such a level of sensitivity, care and expertise than when we met our oncologist and his staff.
Then there’s the online world, with blogs like this one, and individual posts by people who have been there before, all serving as cheerleaders to boost us along the path towards recovery. Online resources also provide educational tips and suggestions to continue to get information on what to do; what to think; what to eat; how to persevere. Joining an online community gives us a resource from people we would never have met otherwise. Then there are the people around us: family, friends, neighbors and strangers, who show up just when needed to be there in unique ways to provide support and joy.
It seems all the cancer survivors have on thing in common: they end up being more thoughtful and contemplative about life. They consider: what am I doing with my life? How can I make a difference? Gratitude and humility are a common factor. Hey—it’s how we all should live anyway, isn’t it?
The cancer world has shown itself to be a place of fear and uncertainty, but also a place where former strangers completely bond in a new mission: to fight this thing…together.