In retrospect, it makes sense that I have been thinking about my grandfather a lot today. Though he passed away nearly four years ago, his presence is one that is still felt in the family, for good or bad.
But then I realized that today is #WorldCancerDay, and it all made a little more sense. To honor the struggles of those who live with cancer, fight the disease, for those who have stood beside loved ones to support them as they battle, I wanted to take a moment out of the day to recognize the spirit, the courage, the love. This post is for you.
Unfortunately, cancer does not care who you are when it attacks. A fact made very real to me shortly before my grandfather’s passing when one of my best friends was diagnosed only week’s before she passed. It didn’t matter that she had a teenage son and two adult children who loved her. It didn’t matter that she was beloved by her entire workforce. Cancer simply didn’t care. However, even as she struggled, there was so much compassion around her. Her strength was tested every day, but she still offered it to others first. Even in the end, she wanted to share her own strength to help rather than to only save it for herself.
For those who have lost a loved one, there are no words. As a writer, I struggled in vain for four years to come to terms with the death of my friend. To lose someone to something so unexpected, it creates a void, and only time will let us heal. This post is for you.
My grandfather was diagnosed close to twenty years ago with cancer. He lived about as far from where his only son – my father – as possible. The distance between Alabama and Washington could only have been made greater if my grandfather had lived in Florida. As a family, we came up with ways to stay in touch. Before FaceTime, before dependable internet in far off places like we both lived in. There was the “Hat of the Month Club”, where we honored my grandfather’s battle by sending him hats from around the Pacific Northwest. There were good-natured $2 bets placed on Monday Night Football games. There were weekly calls. When we could not show it in person, we showed it in gestures – that he was not alone, that there was strength around him.
For those who have stood side by side with a loved one and helped them stay strong in the face of the indiscriminate killer, it is not a battle without scars. For those who have been unable to share the burden, and struggled to watch a loved one forced to physically battle alone, this post is for you.
There are so many ways in which cancer has affected the lives of nearly every person on this planet. I cannot even begin to imagine how many different ways it can change us. But I can offer sympathy, empathy, and solidarity. Even when we live far from the issues, we are not alone. If we can reach out, make a connection, offer comfort, then we can help. We may not be offering life changing cures, we may not be offering anything new or profound, but we are offering love, support, kindness, and even strength.
For all those who have struggled, who have suffered, who have helped, who have cared, this post is for you.