I spent my entire morning pouring over the letters, and videos of fifteen young adults who are cancer survivors. I have the daunting task of picking two, who will receive the prestigious, Edwina Eddy Survivor Scholarship of $5000.00. I’m allowed to pick ONLY TWO. From FIFTEEN. And these fifteen, have already been selected down from HUNDREDS. Do you realize how impossible of a task this is?!?
I’ve narrowed it down to nine. So not bad, for a first go around, right?
The stunning part of all of this isn’t that I have to select just two, nor is it that they’re from a group of hundreds. The bit that I find so remarkable is, well it is two fold actually: is that I simply cannot get over the fact that there are so many children who are affected by cancer. SO. MANY. And even though I’ve known that because of my work with Childhood Cancer Canada and Ooch, I’ve never really KNOWN IT. The thing that continually blows my mind. Takes me by surprise. Never ceases to amaze me, no matter how hard I try, I cannot fully compute in my mind or heart, is how unapologetically loving, faithful, resilient, and thankful each and every one of them are. Yes, I typed THANKFUL, and no that is not a typo. The messages had a common theme: “CANCER MADE ME WHO I AM TODAY, AND WITHOUT IT I WOULDN’T BE FEARLESS, AND IF I HADN’T HAD IT PERHAPS I WOULDN’T HAVE EXCELLED AT SCHOOL, SPORTS OR LIFE.”
They didn’t share thoughts about anger, or disappointment that they got cancer, or how cancer made their lives worse. No. There was none of that. Their messages were of gratitude, for being given a second chance at life; of confidence. They had this disease but the disease stole nothing from them, that hard work, drive, and focus didn’t give them back. Their messages were all about how cancer made them BETTER, and how now, their life focuses have become one of giving back, or being the one who figures out how to kick cancer’s ass.
They are astounding human beings.
Not a single video, or letter had words of self-pity, anger or bitterness. All reactions I would have expected to read about in some way, shape or form, but got none of. Their spirits truly made me “go hmmm” and have caused me to take a long pause today to examine myself, my own attitude toward life and the people I choose to have in my life. I know people who are more bitter about their sister getting more attention when they were SMALL CHILDREN (and I’m not referring to my girls), than these kids have about almost dying, and having to FIGHT for their one life.
I believe it is human nature to look around, and sometimes even back at things we have done, or haven’t done, said or didn’t say, and mull over the “what could have been” syndrome we all struggle with, from time to time. What I feel is not ok to do, is to reside in these places. Yet so many of us do. This is painfully evident every single time I go out in the world. We see it in the way many people won’t acknowledge a stranger, or the way Mandy flipped her lid the other day, or the way we don’t let one another in when driving. The evidence of too many people living in a place of “what if/why not me bitterness” is all around us, in Dallas, in Syria, EVERYWHERE. Maybe it’s because so many of us have not had the near death experience these young people have had, so there has been no sense of urgency to put our lives, and attitudes into perspective? Whatever my reasons, or your reasons, are for wallowing that little bit too long in our “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments, I can’t help but wonder if life wouldn’t be that much sweeter if we just let it all go? If we had a deeper gratitude, like down to our toes, the way these kids do?
Personally, after watching the videos, and reading the letters, I’ve decided that I’m going to commit myself even further to let go of things that have let me down, disappointments that can sometimes steal my joy, and view setbacks as opportunities to grow in faith, determination, and bravery. From now on, I’m going to have the attitude of these young people, who have shown that life is what you make of it, even if life has given you cancer, life can still be sweet.