Blog Preface: I realize everyone’s experience with cancer is different, and that not every person shares an experience similar to my own. You are entitled to your own feelings on this sensitive and difficult topic. I respect them, and I respect you. – xo, Mikayla
Cancer does not discriminate. It has no borders. This six-letter word claims lives, causes all kinds of pain and robs innocent kids of their childhood. Cancer brings financial, emotional and physical burdens that are difficult for my cancer-free self to fully comprehend. Yes, treatments exist for some people. They might work for one but not the next. And while we’re grateful when treatments do what they’re supposed to do, we can’t ignore the scars that result. Scars vary but can include infertility, “chemo brain,” bone and joint pain, symptoms of menopause, lung damage, heart problems, dental problems, vision problems, hypertension, anxiety and/or depression, fear of re-occurrence, anger and loneliness, to name a few.
But…Today I Celebrate
But today is World Cancer Day, and I’m here to celebrate! <Insert awkward silence and raised eyebrow emoji here.> Why would I celebrate a day linked to such an awful disease?
Let me tell you why. First and foremost, I must be clear: I do not celebrate cancer, itself. Rather, I celebrate the faces, stories and lives of those I’ve lost to the disease, those in the fight, those who’ve survived, and those whose journeys have yet to unfold. These people are why I celebrate World Cancer Day. I celebrate to honor their lives, their stories, their beauty; their mark on this world.
My Best Friend Has Cancer
A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer in November. She is a beautiful person, inside and out. I was home with a sick kiddo when I got the news. I remember I was in the kitchen, warming up a bottle of milk, and my phone vibrated on the center island. I glanced over: one new notification from Sara. I swear, the words jumped off the screen: “It isn’t good news…” My heart fell to the floor and I sobbed like a baby.
Thankfully, a lot has changed since then—surgery AND two rounds of chemo are under her belt. Praise Jesus! If you’re familiar with chemotherapy, you may know of a treatment called the “Red Devil”—that’s her current regimen. It’s brutal, but she is a freaking WARRIOR! I am so proud of how brave she is to wake up each day and face her diagnosis and fears with grit and grace. How brave she is to shave her head and proceed to explain to her three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter why mommy doesn’t have hair. How brave she is to go out in public for the first time sporting her new look. How brave she is to go to chemo for a second, third, fourth, fifth round, etc., aware of the extreme nausea, pain, exhaustion, (among other side effects) to follow. How brave she is to wake up each day in pursuit of her dreams, even under these circumstances. How brave she is to commit to being the best person, mother, wife, daughter and friend that she can be amidst the wild journey she’s on. She is incredible. Cancer patients are incredible.
As a friend, I try to support her with a listening ear, through encouraging words and by giving her the space and opportunity to feel the extreme highs and lows of her tumultuous journey. Yet, at the end of the day, she is the one in the arena fighting the fight. I can’t do it for her; no one can. That’s why it’s so important to be there for those who are in the fight of their lives. As a friend, family member, neighbor and even stranger, it’s imperative to show up for people when they need us most. Show up and be kind, helpful, supportive, generous, thoughtful and everything in between. Show up with hugs, meals, prayers, thoughtful cards, gift certificates, smiles, pick-me-ups, fuzzy socks, candles, bath salts and kind words. Don’t wait for them to ask for your help. Most aren’t comfortable doing so. Plan getaways, nights out with the girls and play dates with their kids. Their focus needs to be on getting better. Your support gives them a little more time, energy, space, inspiration or whatever it might be that they need to keep pushing forward, day after day.
Today is World Cancer Day. Not just today, but every day I am grateful for my brave loved ones who have fought this fight, regardless of its outcome, and those, like Sara, who are in the arena with their boxing gloves on, every swing filled with bravery, love, grit and grace. How grateful I am to know and love such incredible people.
Happy World Cancer Day!
*Details of my friend’s cancer journey shared with her permission