Ever feel like the wheels are coming off?
I don’t know about you, but it’s felt like that for me for a while now. It’s not just the mountain of laundry that never gets done, or that tiny orange wrench-shaped light that’s been illuminated on my car dashboard for – I’d rather not say how long. It’s not the french fry smell I can’t get out of the car seats or the 10 million emails I haven’t gotten to yet. All of those things keep me feeling like I’m never caught up, but there’s always the delusional hope that one day the laundry will be done, the car will be serviced and clean, and the emails – all those blessed emails – will be answered.
But when, in the middle of all that, you get the call that someone in your immediate family has what appears to be cancer, that’s when you feel the wheels really start to wobble. Your equilibrium goes all wonky, and your former respectably over-scheduled, just-on-the-brink-of-disaster life is suddenly really on the brink of disaster, and everything just kind of fades to gray.
And then you go underwater for a while – where everything sounds muted and jumbled and the voices are strange, like Charlie Brown’s teacher, before you resurface, gasping, blinking against the hard light of reality.
Of course, it doesn’t help that you live 450 miles away from that family member who may have cancer, and you don’t really know what’s going on or if they’re getting the kind of care you think they should.
When the word comes down – it is cancer; radiation begins right away – you kind of go underwater again. The phone calls and emails between siblings fly back and forth, and plans are made to visit. And even though this family member is taking the diagnosis in stride and keeping busy with woodworking and snow-scooping, and doctors – who have turned out to be thoroughly qualified – have said this is treatable and everything is likely going to be just fine, it is, after all, cancer. CANCER. And so a little part of you, or maybe a big part of you, 450 miles away, falls apart just a little bit.
And then in the middle of it, you decide to do an article on cancer support services at Vanderbilt, and it becomes like therapy – seeing what’s out there to help those diagnosed and their family members who are scared out of their minds. What you find is that Vanderbilt has some great – no, amazing – support services that make you proud all over again to be a part of this fantastic institution.
In the process of writing, you meet people and hear their stories and realize that this is life, no matter where you’re from, and it’s going to be OK – it really is. You sit in on a class where breast cancer survivors try out make-up and pencil in their missing eyebrows and take off their wigs to reveal their beautiful, smooth heads. And you watch as they laugh and hug each other, and you see that CANCER is just cancer and it is not the end of the world. It is not the end of the world because love is bigger and stronger than any disease could ever be. And you realize that cancer has made you love more deeply than you thought possible and believe in prayer more than you imagined and that the laundry doesn’t matter one damn bit.
You figure out that you’ve got to make the most of this wild and precious life you’ve been given, and wheels on or off, all you can do every day is love, give, pray, cry and rejoice – and then do it all over again.
Editor in Chief, Vanderbilt View