I awoke this morning with an image in my head. Not the usual,"I just woke up and the last crazy dream I had is still simmering in my mind" kind of image, but a real memory. A memory posted on my brain's home page as if it were a notification, "on this day 25 years ago you were...". A mental picture that still has enough life left in it to play like a favorite film. So I let it play.
It was me, just after a haircut, stopping by to see my best friend at her after school job at the church daycare. I was walking to the door, fully anticipating her excitement over my new hairstyle. A brazen one at that. A girl like me, known for her massive amount of thick, brown hair didn't just make drastic changes and not share it with her friend. So there I was, walking the hall leading to the room where she was working, I walked in, head held high, heart pounding, and I smiled. Still wearing my sunglasses to keep my identity an even deeper mystery.
"Can I please pick up my child", I asked. She paused and truly didn't recognize me. Success! We laughed, she told me how awesome it looked. I told her I was glad I had a reason to be so brave to cut it so short...fade.
The life movie fades.
I pull myself out of bed with a smile.
This may not seem strange, but it would if I were to rewind the film in my head to the scene where I am sitting in a hospital bed, my mom at my side and discussing how we are going to have fun with losing my hair. "How about I dye it blonde? I'm going to go bald anyways!"
Yes, we laughed together. We laughed because that was something we enjoyed and why not? Life is full of surprises, bad, good...never expected...Like it or not, that's why they're called surprises. I had just been diagnosed with a deadly bone cancer at 14. We had nothing better to do, but laugh, pray, love, and fight, very hard.
So why do I write about this memory? It was this time of year, 25 years ago that life fundamentally changed for me, my family and my friends. I want to surprise you with something that may even surprise myself. Cancer showed me, taught me so much and I'm not referencing the obvious, deep and scary things. I am talking about the following:
Cancer surprised me by bringing out the best in my friends, family and even strangers. People who wanted to love on and stretch themselves beyond what they knew they were capable of doing.
Cancer made us all stop, pull out the magnifying lens of life and see the smallest of moments as the miracles that they always are, but are often unseen.
Cancer removed the fog of frivolous behavior from so many and caused them to take inventory of what was important in life.
Cancer pushed me to my limits and then allowed me to try even harder than I had ever thought.
Cancer allowed me to stay awake long into the silent of the night because I was too sick to sleep and then and only then could I crawl into the lap of my heavenly Father, pray and be given strength that was beyond any thing humanly possible, feel peace that is indescribable, and Let. Go.
Cancer brought people into my life that would become life long friends.
Cancer allowed me to suffer enough to be empathetic in almost any situation.
Cancer allowed me to see the power in a phone call, card, balloon, or just the sit and be quiet kind of "I'm there for you".
Am I saying it was wonderful? Absolutely not! I hate cancer. It has taken many people I love, but I wanted to share with you something that surprised me as this anniversary has arrived. I want to encourage you. I've seen things written about what cancer cannot do, but cancer or any other deep life struggle is a teacher. Allow your struggle to teach. Allow yourself to be the student in an AP Course of life. You will soon be at the top of the class. I pray that eventually, you will be far enough from this scene in your life, that you will be able to replay one of the memories without pain. Maybe even smile at how far you have come, what you have learned and be amazed at the people who have journeyed with you. Fight hard. You have a lot of people cheering for you. Surprise us all.
*If you would like to know a little more about the friend I mentioned, read one of my previous blog entries, "The To Step".
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