As spring turns to summer and the best and brightest days lie ahead, I want to toss a bouquet to those whose lives are shadowed by serious illness. It seems discordant to be sick during June’s bloom, but cancer doesn’t respect the calendar.
We all know someone who has been suddenly transported from the world of the alive and well to the alternate universe of blood tests and waiting rooms, stressful treatments and dark nights of anxiety. You think you’re living one life — dinner dates on the calendar, vacations planned, summer fun after a dreadful winter — and then, crack, the bolt of lightning.
Most of us of a certain age have been there ourselves, and we’re all living longer, so more people are going through traumatic illness. Every day I see friends who face grueling rehab after joint replacements, debilitating chemotherapy and radiation, and agonizing wait times for critical reports and results. I have a few particular friends in mind because it’s their struggle that has focused my attention.
I see them out and about. I know they wake up in the morning and the temptation is to pull the covers over their heads. But the women and men I know choose life. And it often means just putting one foot in front of the other, toughing out the treatments and sitting around a dinner table faking the smile and the appetite and the good mood.
I am in awe of their courage and performance under the most stressful and disabling circumstances. Their names are at the top of my honor roll. Perhaps you know some folks who belong on the same list.
When I had breast cancer, I did the best I could; my way of getting through it was to keep pretty much to myself and cook complicated dishes I didn’t feel like eating. I’m such a bad actor; I didn’t want to impose my dark mood on others. Of course, I shared my experience with the entire immediate world through my writing — it wasn’t about secrecy — but I couldn’t do what I see my friends doing: a tour de force of remarkable bravado in the face of anxious days and weeks and sometimes months.