What We Really Mean When We Say, 'I Could Never...'

05/21/2015 04:20 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2016
Mardra Sikora

When my co-worker's daughter was diagnosed with cancer, the whispered phrase that followed her from every room was: "I could never..."

Two years later, one of the whisperers 3-year-old daughter also developed cancer.

I theorize that the reason we say "I could never..." is that we are trying to tell the powers that be:

"Don't even try it,
because if you do,
I'll break.
And you don't want that, do you?
Give that burden to someone stronger than me,
someone patient,
someone with more faith.
Someone who's not me.
Because if you, God-the-universe-and-everything,
place that burden on me,
you'll have only yourself to blame
when I snap in two.
So there."

It's very much like when my own son, Marcus, was born and there were a lot of uncertainties surrounding his health. There was a heart defect, the extent of which was not yet known. There was talk of an airlift to another city. Someone breathed baptism.

Oh Hell no, I thought.

To me, the symbolism of baptism was giving your child to God and some idea about marking him as OK for entry into heaven. I was NOT doing that, for two very logical reasons. Reason one: I am not done with this child, so if I don't baptize him, he's not God's and therefore, cannot die. And number two: Obviously, God would not be able to keep this beautiful child from heaven if he were to die, therefore, he cannot be blessed for heaven until I'm ready for him to go.

Don't knock it, it worked.

Nora's mommy made her own deal with God, "You can have her hair, just let me keep her."

Thankfully, that worked too.

But the, "I could never..." trick, I guess it's over-used. Everyone's tried it, so it's lost its punch. God-the-universe-and-everything says,

"Know what?
Too bad."

Even people handling what others say they can't handle have spoken about the limits of what they can handle. (Follow that?)

I have another friend whose son has Bardet-Biedl syndrome. It was a long, scary time getting a diagnosis and treatment, because it's just rare enough that most doctors didn't know what they were looking at. There have been some terrifying moments along the way and, as is the case with the human condition, the future is unpredictable. This mom owns a business creating awesome, custom rhinestone shirts. One night at a party, she was explaining to me that she had to do this super rush custom order for another mother's charity walk, and said, "Her son has one of those syndromes that the rest of us look at and go... 'Oh, I could never do that!'"

I nodded. I knew what she meant.

In all honesty, when my son was diagnosed with Down syndrome, I thought. Well, if it had to be something... I can handle this. I don't know if that's weird, maybe it's a coping mechanism of some sort, but it's also true. I mentally ran down a laundry list of diseases/disabilities that are much worse than Down syndrome and thought, Oh yeah, this is way better than that.

I am thinking about this right now because of Nora and team NOJO in the CureSearch walk. At the last CureSearch walk I attended, there was a point where parents/families of children Lost to cancer took the stage. Each child's name was spoken into the microphone. Golden balloons floated into the sky while the gathered crowd stood in silence. I stared in amazement at their courage to stand, to walk... to be.

Every parent witnessing their walk to the stage wished, prayed, whatever -- Please, don't lead me to that stage. Please, I could never...

But the deals parents strike with the universe don't always work. And that sucks.

Marcus' has faced health issues that were life-threatening, each one paralyzed my heart with fear. Thankfully, those days feel like a galaxy long ago and far away. Do I feel better able to face and handle the "I could never..." because of past difficulties? Hell No. But they're all out there.

Here are some scary statistics from

More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.

The average age of diagnosis with pediatric cancer is 6.

Children's Cancer affects all ethnic, gender and socio-economic groups.

If you want to change an "I could never..." for another family, consider learning more about the CureSearch Mission.

Originally Published on Grown Ups and Downs.