Has someone told you those 3 special words? The take-your-breath-away, once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment… you imagine you will be alone, in a private place, you can feel your heart racing, shivers run down your spine, the room suddenly has this completely different feeling, different aura, different weight to the air. The words you have been waiting to hear…never. You. Have. Cancer.
“In this lifetime you will most likely be one of two things: a Survivor or a Caregiver...” started the intro speaker. “Please stand if you are a Survivor.” (applause). “Please stand if you are a Caregiver.” (seems like a long pause as people look around the room). I shove back my chair against the rough carpeted floor of a seemingly too-large conference room, in a church of course, of adults that are generations beyond me in age and maturity. As the chair creaks, I come to stand up, tugging down the front of my dress, head looking to the floor in the front of the room. Do we stand and smile? Doesn’t seem like the appropriate occasion. Do we stand and wave? This doesn’t feel like a parade. I guess I never thought I would only have the option to be 1 of 2.
Can I be the 3rd option? The person who never has to battle this disease and never has to watch a loved one fight through it? Can I be the 3rd one, the invisible one, the person NOT invited to this banquet? I’ll pass on the complimentary catered dinner, the fresh flower centerpiece, the guest speaker, and the fancy balloons. I’ll skip the tough questions…How many years have you been a Survivor? Did you have a single or a double? Did you have chemo or radiation? These words were all jargon to me, a different language prior to the Summer of 2010. I would be happy to never go another day with tears welling up in my eyes when I remember “that Summer”. But I can’t. I’m the 2nd option. I’m the Caregiver. It’s been 4 years since I’ve been the Caregiver and I’ll forever be the Caregiver. I’ll forever do fundraisers to support prevention and research for cancer, walk in the Relays for Life, the 3-day 60-mile walks, wear the Pink Ribbon. I’ll forever be invited as a guest to the Survivors banquet (as long as my Mom will have me!)
As a guest at the American Cancer Society/ Relay for Life Survivors banquet I had the benefit of hearing the guest speakers who shared with us four ways to deal with cancer:
1) Positive Attitude
2) Support System
4) Sense of Humor
It’s now my role to embrace these four ways to deal with cancer. Even more so, we can use these four ways to embrace the future. We may not have a choice in being Option 1, Option 2, or the ideal Option 3 but we do have a choice in how to move forward. There’s a reason my Mom and I are so tough. There’s a reason we were chosen as options 1 and 2 to be the pillars of support to help others in this journey. Not only cancer journeys but life journeys. Each day we can choose to be positive. We surround ourselves with family, dear friends, mentors, leaders, pastors, counselors, and those from whom we’d gladly seek wisdom. We continue to pray for those fighting their own battles. And, well a sense of humor, at least you get to custom design the “new ones”. After all, I did meet a new friend at the banquet and the Tiramisu was pretty tasty. What better way to spend a Thursday night in July, right?
What this has taught me most about being Option 2 is that I still get to be the Caregiver each and every day. It’s really a good job. Who wouldn’t want the…take-your-breath-away, once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment… you imagine you will be alone, in a private place, you can feel your heart racing, shivers run down your spine, the room suddenly has this completely different feeling, different aura, different weight to the air. The words you still get to tell your Mom, Option 1, in person…
I. Love. You.