Some fights will leave you battered and bruised; your face, neck, and hands discolored, swollen, cut and bleeding. Other battles fought are less noticeable – internalized struggle, attempting to will yourself to stop the advances of an unrelenting opponent, whose main goal is to spread and attack your entire being. It wants your body, your mind, and your spirit. Cancer is the toughest battle most will ever experience. Unquestionably, your strength and resolve to beat this physically destructive, emotional rollercoaster ride of a disease will be pushed to the further limits. As Jimmy Valvano famously spoke during the ESPYs in 1993 – “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
My best friend in the world – a close personal confidant, a beautiful person inside and out, the strongest person I know – is in the midst of a battle that’s constantly testing every single ounce of her existence. She expends immeasurable time, effort, and emotion each and every moment of the day. Through unspeakable pain, nausea, a flood of emotional distress and soul searching, her perseverance throughout the entire ordeal is beyond admirable. It speaks to her character, her continued loyalty, her incredible self-awareness.
Watching her, during her sessions of chemotherapy, I see her vibrant eyes filled with a mixture of fear and sadness. Her smile and expression reflects what’s been a year of uncertainty, of confusion, of pain; yet it’s all outlined with a glimmer of hope. It’s taken a toll on her predominantly positive outlook and perspective on things. Once the eternal optimist, her thoughts have grown pessimistic, albeit understandably. Conversely, when she laughs, it’s pure – happy, joyous, undeterred.
The effects that having cancer (and the ensuing fight against) has on a person’s personality can be shocking. The idea that a person who was always a shining light in an ocean of darkness is now flickering like a flame in a light breeze is a hard thing to experience. It’s remarkable that no matter how frightening the prognosis, how much the chemo wears on someone, that they can retain the things that made them so interesting, so affable, so amazing.
She’s always been a source of my strength. A person that I can always rely on to be 100% real and left nothing sugarcoated, regardless of the bite to it. She has a sense of humor that’s unrivaled in a lot of ways. She’s broken me down into tears with the ridiculousness of the things she does or says. I sit here smiling as I write it, although the tears still well up when I reflect on the way things have been between us. Like everyone that’s close to someone, sometimes the fights and the words exchanged have a lasting affect. If I coulda snatched them back as soon as I said them, I wish I could. It’s a familiar sentiment for her, as well.
Cancer is a beast of many forms. It starts small and over time, it spreads and feeds on negativity. The power of positive thought and action has its upside – it softens some of the worry, the anxiety. It can have the ability to some of the pains, assuage some of the nausea and strengthen resolve. Negativity only exacerbates the anguish that being a patient can present. Tears give way to smiles and laughs, impressing that glow against the darkness and hopelessness that some can experience.
Her life hasn’t been the most picture perfect, but like a true fighter with a heart that doesn’t quit, she’s never given up. She’s continued to strive to beat the disease inside her and live each second of each minute of each day to its very fullest. The uneasiness in her stomach, the sharp pains, weakness from chemo, uncertainty haven’t broken that gorgeous spirit that she’s always had. An angel with her scars, she’s remained an inspiration to many more than just me. I don’t hesitate to sing her praises, hoping that she can see in herself what I’ve seen all along. Jimmy V really said it best –
“Cancer may take away all my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things will carry on forever.”