By Ronnie McBrayer
My friend has cancer. I have been accompanying her as she receives weekly chemotherapy. These treatments are administered in an “infusion laboratory.” The “lab” is a simple room with comfortable lounge chairs lining the walls. Each chair has an infusion pump that pushes what everyone prays is cancer-killing compounds through the body.
There are those tucked into those chairs who look well, and others who are obviously ill; those who have been making pilgrimage to the lab for years; and those who are newbies. Some are alone; some are with friends or family; some discretely hide their baldness, and others wear the rigors of treatment like a badge of honor.
And when it comes to coping, the differences are manifold as well. Some are in shock over their prognosis. Some are depressed. Some have a stoic, Zen-like acceptance. Some keep smiling no matter what, and some are as mad as hell – at life, God, physicians – at anyone who can be held responsible.
Then some patients have all these feelings simultaneously. Don’t be fooled: Coping with a major illness is not as orderly as textbooks led us to believe. It is a hot mess of total emotion when facing one’s personal mortality. But for all the compare and contrast of these unique individuals, they are all held together by the solidarity of their battle. Through the blood, sweat, and tears they fight like gladiators in the arena, for they are desperately fighting for their lives. More so, they are fighting for what it means to be human.
Disease does more than “steal, kill, and destroy” the physique. It attempts to deprive a person of his or her dignity. It endeavors to smother the internal flame and erase the spirit of the one who suffers. So those fighting horrible illnesses are not just fighting for a few more years. They are fighting for what it means to be a human being. They are marshalling all their grit and resilience (and something that borders on elegance), not just to stay alive physically, but to guard their very souls.
Those in the arena understand that physical life may be taken from them, but by God’s grace, no disease will ever rob them of their humanity, identity, and their innate worth as creations of the Almighty. They understand that the fight may not change their prognosis, but the fight prevents the disease from changing them.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.