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.