Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: March 2010
It's amazing what the gold medal men's hockey round and a couple glasses of wine will do.
While traveling in Europe battling wind storms & mayhem to get to my destination, I finally arrive at the hotel about 15 min into the final game. Immediately all politeness goes out the window, and I implore the hotel staff to turn on the game on the bar TV. "What the hell, I'll have a glass of wine to celebrate making it to my hotel & the game", I thought.
After all my yelling, hooting & hollering at the screen with saves, scores, and near-misses, eventually a fellow conference-goer joins me. By then, the glasses of wine consumed are double, and we are chattering like fools. But, it did help to take away the sting of the OT loss. It was partly hard to cry, because one of my favorite Blackhawks players scored the first Canadian goal.
Still, I truly thought we had a shot after the "miracle" goal at 24 seconds left in the third. That was truly unbelievable!
Anyway, as we began to drown our sorrows in the third glass of wine (mind you I really don't drink & have zero tolerance), I mention this very blog to my hockey compatriot. It turns out, he had a sister die of cancer at 38 years old!
He himself said cancer is everywhere, and it can strike at a moment's notice, with no regard for age, race, location, etc. Despite the pain he went through, I was so grateful he shared his story with me. It reminds me of the strength a person achieves when they have endured watching the suffering of a loved one. It reminded me of my quest for a new career, to move into an area that is less about the bottom line and more about the filling of hearts.
It also reminded me of something I don't consciously think about on a daily basis: my mom & my brother will die. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be the next day, but it will happen. It may not even be the cancer that takes them, but there will come a day when they are no longer with us.
It was a very humble reminder that all our days are numbered, and that we never know when our cosmic pink slip will be issued.
When people meet me, they don't understand why I have so much energy, why I get fired up over a hockey game, why I feel so passionately about the gargantuan efforts of Olympic athletes, or why I talk on & on about the killer climb I did last weekend. They don't understand why I spend 3 days camping in the woods in the middle of winter, or the thrill of the powder run we nailed on the Day 2 hike.
They clearly don't understand that I live. I live each day, each moment. It's the times when I push my body to its limits, when I push my mind beyond the edges of its comfort zone, that I feel most alive. The times when I can be of service are the most beautiful, like caring for my mom while she was in her treatment.
People tell me I'm crazy to be willing to move in with my mom when her chemo is done, since she can't afford a long-term care facility. But, what else could I do? Even though it might be two steps away from hell, the opportunity to be of service to her and her failing body is not something I could pass up. It gives me the gift of humility. It's what has helped me to be cheerful & happy & polite & friendly to all those I have met in Europe, even when stranded in Frankfort for 10 hours. (When I finally reached the airport ticket counter for my train transfer, the first thing I did was thank the attendant lady for her help. It made her smile & feel good. Such a simple thing!)
When my hockey buddy got embarrassed a few times telling me his story, I told him about the fellow I met at the climbing gym, only weeks after returning from caring for my mom, and the fantastic support we offered each other as his dad was dying. I told him that sometimes cancer is like an odor, and all those that have seen it, been through it, and survived, come away with a stink that just won't wash off. Others with the same smell are oddly attracted to one another.
So, we carry on. Today is the first of two jam-packed days of meetings. It's so nice to be out of the office and actually doing my job, which is talking to people & making friends. I just hope I can put these skills to use for a bigger cause someday soon.
Labels: cancer, cancer survivor, career, caretake, ice hockey, Olympics