Luminaries

Until a few years ago, I didn’t know that much about cancer.  Cancerland was a place that old people went for excruciating treatments before they died.  Of course, I had heard a few terms, such as tumors, radiation, and chemo, but I had no idea what they meant.  I didn’t even know that chemo is short for chemicals.  Let’s just say I was ignorant of the complexities of the disease. 

Then came my diagnosis…first endometrial, then uterine, then ovarian.   Talk about a learning curve.  I have compared it to being thrown into a boxing ring with the heavyweight champ…only without any training or preparation.  The words “you have cancer” are the first devastating blow in a ruthless fight.  While you are reeling from the first hit, dazed and in shock, you realize cancer isn’t just for old people anymore.  Your medical team swarms around you talking in a foreign tongue that is difficult to understand, while you wonder how to prepare your children to live without you.  Devastating does not begin to cover the impact of this whirlwind.  It is a scary, lonely place, because you are in the ring by yourself.

When you look around to get your bearings, you see people in your corner.  They are cheering for you, and even though you can see the fear in their faces; they offer kind words and encouragement.  They bring you food and offer to take drive your kids. They come pray over you when you are afraid. Cards flood your mailbox, and you realize that your life is intertwined with many amazing people.  You think “It is sad that it took cancer for me to realize how truly blessed I am.”  

Your caregivers, the ones that stand to loose the most if you throw in the towel, stand firm.  They endure ER visits, side effects of medications, grumpiness, and overall chaos.  This battle could not be fought without them; they are the rocks in a sea of panic. Does that mean they are not afraid?  By no means…they are terrified, but they know the battle does not wait until we are ready, so they plough through one step after another.  Day after day, bad report after bad report their lives hang in the balance along with yours.  Hoping for good news becomes a daily prayer, while the world goes on around them.  It is surreal. 

Our school family has been hit hard this year and cancer seems to be behind every bush.  It is stealing from us, and that is difficult to take.  Our hearts are broken for wives and children who have watched their loved ones slip away.  We have a ringside seat so we can see up close the toll the battle is having.  The helpless feeling of being an observer is hard to stomach.  We are a group of doers and it seems there is very little to do. 

I have an idea.  It is a small thing, but it could make a difference.  Relay for Life sells luminaries to raise money for cancer research.  Some of that research is what saved my life by developing the chemicals that treated my cancer.  I am one of the fortunate ones.  To continue to find treatment options is critical to the battle for the cure.  Relay is one small way to support those in our school family.  I plan to purchase luminaries in memory of Dennis Carpenter and in honor of Monty Pert.  It would be moving to see hundreds of luminaries with Dennis and Monty’s names on them.  Somehow, it acknowledges the pain of the battle, and makes a statement that the fight will not end now.  Though the champ appears to be winning at times, we will not give up.  The friends and family members will not forget, nor will we quit.  I plan to make an exclamation of that fact by purchasing luminaries. Will you join me?

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