Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Burden to Be Strong

With last Thursday's treatment, Karen has reached the half way point in her chemotherapy. There was no singing and dancing to celebrate the metaphoric "light at the end of the tunnel." Instead, she approached it just like the week before, and the week before that: get up, get on with it and move forward.

That's what you do when you have cancer. Is there a choice, really?

Karen's hope hasn't faded, but the facade of strength has begun to show cracks. Behind her ever-present smile that seems to buoy others more than herself is a flu-like fatigue that no amount of rest seems to ease.

New in town for the chemo production playing out at home is: "The Change of Life". Hot flashes have thrown Karen's internal thermostat off kilter. And weepy emotions flow without warning. It's all new here..for all of us. Yet still, there's: get up, get on with it and move forward.

We've heard it before, "That which does not destroy us makes us stronger." Some might say it's a challenge put before cancer patients as they go through treatment. The pressure to be strong is very real.

I've come to realize that Karen carries a burden to be strong, because she must, but also because we want her to be. We expect cancer patients to battle cancer as brave fighters. These words -- and I've used them repeatedly in my blog, helping to fuel this expectation -- convey the image of a strong warrior. But Karen is not a warrior. Yes, she is strong -- in more ways than one -- but when it comes to cancer, she has no choice but to be strong. As she puts it, "you do what you have to do."

There are days when falling into self-pity and despair would be much easier than fighting. But in the six months since her diagnosis, I'm not sure I could count even one day when she retreated into self-pity. This is tough work...to stay upbeat as your body and mind tries to bring you down.

Soon, there will seven treatments left, then six, then five....and Karen will move beyond all of this. Perhaps stronger, but relieved of the burden to constantly be strong.

6 comments:

  1. Karen, Brian and Jack (and Caramel, too) -- You are all strong in different ways. Strong individually and as a family unit. Karen you are THE most gorgeous bald person I have ever seen! Keep moving forward and soon all of this will be behind you. Hugs, Kim

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  2. Dear Brian,
    Please give Karen my love and tell her I think of her often. I left a voicemail a few weeks ago but understand she probably doesn't feel like returning phone calls.
    The photos of her without hair are GORGEOUS. Her smile has always been her most beautiful physical trait and her heart her most beautiful trait, period.
    I'm going to the PA Breast Cancer Coalition Luncheon on Oct. 14th; will Karen be there? Linda Rhodes is getting an award in the morning but I can't be there for that. I'll call Karen again soon. I love the blog; you are a great writer.
    Love,
    Kate Megargee

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  3. CAN THIS UNINTENDED JOURNEY MAKE A U- TURN?

    SPEED IS THE NEED.

    GET IT NEXT.

    EVERY SILVER LINING HAS IT'S CLOUD!

    WOULD YOU EVER HAVE HAD ONE OF THE TOP 10 CANCER BLOGS WITHOUT CANCER?

    CAN WE TAKE AWAY THE CLOUD?


    SCURVY WAS ONCE DEASDLIER AND FASTER THAN CANCER.

    BUT, TODAY MORE PEOPLE MAKE A LIVING OFF OF CANCER THAN DIE OF IT.

    YOU OWE IT TO WORLD TO KNOW.

    DO THE SHOCKING SEARCH, WORLD WITHOUT CANCER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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  4. I came across your blog through livejournal. I put "anything worth anything takes more than a few days and a long, long night" in the search, a line from Deb Talan's song "Big Strong Girl". A professor at my college just gave it to me last night seeing as how like you, my boyfriend has been in the hospital for a month now recovering from having been hit by a car. The only other time I had been in a hospital as long as I have before this accident, was coincidentally enough for my grandmother's chemotherapy when she was fighting against breast cancer.

    And while I do not know you, I just want you to know that I find this so moving. I have found writing in my own blog soothing throughout this whole experience and with a journey as long as yours, I encourage you to keep on writing for her, for you, and for everyone fighting a similar struggle. We all appreciate it. This is unbelievable. I wish her the best and most sincere wishes to overcome this. You're in my prayers.

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  5. A fighter don't quit, I was once a breast cancer patient but was cured with rso cannabis oil 4 months ago. My life is amazing now with my lovely family to smile with, if you have case like cancer don't hesitate to look ricksimpsoncannabisoil_phoenixtears@outlook.com for an answer to your problem. Don't die of your silence and know that if you don't find answers to your own problems they will only grow much bigger and fast.

    ReplyDelete