I have a friend who lives in the Windy City. I met her when we used to spend time in Florida over Christmas some 20 years ago. We became friends, lost touch, and then reconnected through the 'book.
Of course, when you don't see someone for almost two decades, and then you see pics, you realize that while you think you know someone, you don't really know them at all. For instance, I had no idea that my friend was a "black belt" in martial arts. She's actually a lethal weapon.
So one day I was waiting for some video to compress when I decided to surf on my favorite little social network time killer. I made a few comments, liked a few things, and then I saw that my friend posted a status update. I hadn't talked to her in over four years, so I reached out, sending her the message, "Hope all is well."
And thus is the serendipitous nature of my relationship with cancer.
My friend told me about a friend of hers that had been just diagnosed with Testicular. I told her that was a good thing, which always seems to elicit a "WTF?" reaction. But I'm serious, because I know first hand that if you're a man who gets diagnosed, you want ball. It's 95 percent curable. Thank you Dr. Larry Einhorn for that.
But then the hammer dropped. She told me about her cousin that was going through his second bout of leukemia. He battled and beat it once before when he was 17, but I've personally seen battles with that disease. They're never pretty. Now at 34, it has reared its ugly head again when things are much more complicated.
Then, it was he and his loved ones in the fight. Now it's he, his loved ones...and his two children under the age of 4. His aunt has moved to be near them, because both he and his wife are still working to pay all of the bills. And it even looks like they're going to have to move to a different city to get the care that he will need to save him.
My friend asked if I had any advice, and for the first time in a long time, I had no idea what to say. She couldn't see that on my side of the screen, I looked like I had been punched in the gut. I felt sick for someone that I don't even know, and all I could do was look up to the ceiling and say, "I need a little inspiration here."
And... nothing. I sat at the keyboard for 12 minutes and could not think of a single word to type. Try that sometime and I guarantee it will be the longest 12 minutes of your life.
But then all at once, as I was about to give up hope, I knew what to say:
"I talk about perspective all of the time, and the first thought that hit me was that sometimes life just sucks. There are so many things going against him and his family... and I thought, honestly, 'I don't know what to say.'
But then it also hit me that your aunt has gone there, so he has support. He has a 3 and a 1 year old, so he has unbelievable motivation to fight. And hopefully, he has docs that say, 'We know that we're good at what we do, but we also know people who are better at it.'
The hardest part of battling cancer is losing your will, and it happens to all of us. After my 15th chemo treatment in seven weeks, I was so wrecked that all I wanted to do was die... not kidding.
But what helped is when I got really mad at the cancer. I made it a personal thing. This wasn't some mindless, faceless disease. This was something trying to ruin and ultimately take my life, and for every stumble I had, it had a laugh at my expense. THAT... is motivation.
My advice would be this: at his place in life, love conquers all. I really mean that, and I believe that. Youth and anger may have gotten him through before, but what will get him through now, more than chemo or docs or support from outside, is the love he has for his children. He's young, he's stage 2, and he's got a fighting shot at kicking its ass, no matter how many times it knocks him down."
And like that, I learned a valuable lesson that day. I realized that in order to win the war against cancer, you have to find and embrace something that motivates you. For my friend's cousin, while he is in the thick of his fight, his children could be his motivation, or his marriage, or the fact that cancer dared to show up again after it tried to kill him once before.
For me, now that my physical fight is long ago, my motivation is to help others get back up when they've been knocked down, and I will even include myself in that category. While chatting with my friend, cancer found a way to knock me down again. And as someone much smarter than I once said, "It's not how many times you get knocked down. It's how many times you get back up."
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