No greater privilege

March 24, 2015

cancer-treatmentLife is often mysterious, with no rhyme or reason.  Some people come into the world and lead what to all appearances is a charmed life. Storybook. The stuff of fairy tales.  Others are destined to live in quiet misery. Or not so quiet.  They’re challenged from the get-go — or certainly not that long after– and that’s what their lives become: all about meeting the challenge.

The rest of us? Well, it’s a mixed bag for us. Some good stuff, some stuff we think is bad. Other stuff that really IS bad.

With age comes the knowledge that anything can happen. We no longer wear the armor of invincible youth, that time of life when we can’t even fathom that anything bad or challenging lies ahead. But as we get older, we understand the fragility of all that is before us.  As we age we notice for the first time that the world around us is populated with humans facing challenges of every kind.  Their callings are more advanced than ours, I’ve come to see, and one reason we are here is to learn.

There is no greater privilege than walking by the side of someone who is fighting a mighty battle. It is a learning experience.cancer-treatmentOh, I know, some of you are aghast at the thought that other people’s issues might actually be a lesson for us, too.  But why else are they there, right in front of us, if not to provide a teaching moment or two or three?  They’re not just random events, you know.

No. They are purposeful.

It doesn’t mean they’re fair.  But there is a reason and the Divine in all its perfection knows what it is doing.

I sat waiting in front of that counter in the early morning not too long ago, the first person to arrive in a very quiet room which would soon be full of people undergoing cancer treatment.  I was there to be a support, to lend an ear, a hand, a heart.

We are all human, you know.  It’s hard to stay upright in the face of challenges and sometimes we need a little propping up.

20150311_164806This tree in my back yard is a constant reminder that the wind can be so strong it buffets us about. It can loosen our roots and nearly unmoor us.  But with a little support, our roots can grow strong again and eventually we can stand upright without help.

Cancer treatment is brutal. Time can drag as chemicals are infused into the body or as radiation kills errant cells.  In the morning quiet I looked at the huge clock and saw its irony.

radiology clockTime becomes oh-so-precious when faced with a life-threatening illness. Life becomes all about time. How much, how much more, how little. They say we’re made of atoms and molecules and cells, but I see that we are made of minutes, seconds, hours, days, months and years. If we’re lucky, decades and even a century. A century is now possible.

But in the throes of a treatment room we are concerned with those micro-increments of time, as in “when will this be over?”

cancer-treatmentIn the waiting room this puppy puzzle sat on a table, half-completed. I wondered who had done it. Was it one patient? Several? Or loved ones waiting as the minutes ticked by?  Puppies–what sweeter focus could there be? A sweet touch. Sweeter than chocolate even.


angel lightThe nurses and doctors began to arrive; angels in white ready to care and to soothe in the best way they know. It is their calling.   I believe in the power of angels to guide and protect and am awed by the power vested in those angels in white.

I am even more awed by the power of the choirs of heavenly angels standing all around us, propping us up as we live out our destiny.

Mother/Father God, may those angels be close to us always and may they show themselves to us for comfort in times of need.  Amen.

25 comments on “No greater privilege
  1. POWERFUL, Carol. A good friend ( family, by marriage) was diagnosed with lung cancer last week. She couldn’t come to my birthday lunch on March 6th because her supposed pneumonia had yet to clear up. It’s killing me and I feel weak in her presence, not knowing how to help.Thank you for this posting–it gave me strength that I will pass on to her.

  2. Mary says:

    Your words spoke to me. For over 15 years I was a volunteer at the Cancer Center at Hoag Hospital. I ran several weekly programs there including Look Good Feel Better. You are absolutely correct, the lessons are for all parties involved.

  3. Nora says:

    When my brother-in-law-died much too young, my sister asked me,”What do people do who don’t have faith?” I couldn’t answer that question for I couldn’t imagine what the answer might be. Just being there for her, however, has made me so much more aware of the importance of supporting others and, I hope, has also made me a better person.

  4. Laura says:

    It is a privilege to be allowed a part of a loved one’s journey through catastrophic illness. But often it’s difficult for the one suffering to allow others to help; they feel accepting help means defeat. I’m glad your friend is allowing you to be a part of this sacred journey.

  5. Every three weeks I head over to the Regional Cancer Institute to sit with my friend George who is undergoing chemo for stage III lung camcer that has mets to the spine. With all of my medical problems I still think, there but for the grace of God go I. I feel honored that he allows me into this very intimate part of his life. I am proud that he trusts me to explain and interpret for him (he is deaf).

  6. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    I have been there while several of my family members have gone through cancer treatments and yes, it definitely makes you think and puts things into perspective.

  7. Willow says:

    Gosh, that is so scary! You are doing a great job though. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Diane says:

    I get such comfort from imagining Angels around us. So sad for those who endure such agonies. So grateful for the health that I will NEVER take for granted. Blessings to you and to the friend you were there to support!

  9. I love where you say that we are seconds, minutes, hours…. It’s so true!

  10. I love your take on how people are kind of made out of precious increments of time and not just the physcial elements. Time is truly fleeting and this is a good reminder to make the most of the time we do get. 🙂

  11. Harriet says:

    Gosh. This was such an amazing post. thanks

  12. Yes! We are minutes, hours, days. And when people die who we love, we carry their minutes, hours and days with us, too. It lifts us up even as it may seem too painful to bear sometimes.

  13. Jeanine says:

    So many of my loved ones have suffered and ultimately passed from cancer. It really puts things in perspective. I never hope to go through it again.

  14. This was a difficult post for me to read. Over the last 2 years I’ve spent a good deal of time with family at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Standing room only on most days. I lost my uncle to pancreatic cancer and flew to Texas to say good bye. Ripped out my heart when my disabled father flew down to do the same to his brother, his best friend.

    The pain of kidney stones is now upon me, and as I wait in some pain for surgery I feel the fragility of life. This is my second go round with them in 6 years, and as I wrote about in my last blog post I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    Sorry to let it all hang out on your blog, Carol. I hope you don’t mind.

    Let’s all live each day to the fullest as best as we can. When I’m “gravel free” again I intend to do just that.

  15. Ruth Curran says:

    You got me here Carol:
    “We are all human, you know. It’s hard to stay upright in the face of challenges and sometimes we need a little propping up.

    Here is what this piece screamed: I am grateful for those who hold me up and am honored to hold that guide wire for others. Thank you for allowing me that! I am grateful to and for you!

  16. I agree – it is a privilege but at the same time it is a huge burden as you are the one who has to stay strong no matter what

  17. You are sooo right- many lessons to learn. We went thru this with my SIL. She used to concentrate on the fresh flowers that were delivered every Monday. Now, our family sends fresh flowers every other day (thru a foundation we started)to the same ward- even though she’s gone. She’s the angel now looking after all the others.

  18. Such heartbreak, Carol. But hope, too. I pray those angels surround and comfort you and your friend as well as all who love and care about (and for) her.

  19. Stephanie says:

    This is an amazing post. Lessons are everywhere in life. You are in my thoughts.

  20. So true – life is mysterious. Your post is very touching. We don’t know what we are in for tomorrow, and that is just the most scary part of living.

  21. Britney says:

    Life does throw us tons of challenges but if we learn from those that are finding wisdom in their struggles, I think we will have a different outlook on life. Thanks for this post!

  22. Beautiful post, which I’m sharing with my husband. He’s been a hospice volunteer for the past year, and would agree with everything you said here.

  23. Janie Emaus says:

    Having gone through many weeks of radiation with my husband, I can relate to this post. We met some of the nicest people along our journey.

  24. Jhoveleen says:

    I agree with this, “Time becomes oh-so-precious when faced with a life-threatening illness.”

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