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When Life Transcends Death: How a Pink-Haired Cancer Survivor Taught me to Hope

Just moments before grandma would walk from the track into Heaven
Just moments before grandma would walk from the track into Heaven

 

Grandma,

I hope you find as much joy in remembering me as I do you.

Love you forever and always.

Your “pride and joy”

Danny

 

To those who have been reading and following my journey in life through my posts “Bipolar Tale”, thank you, and please continue to read.

Hope in all things

I will take a short hiatus from writing about my Past to talk about my Present. As all together as people believe I have it, I feel quite the opposite on the inside. Behind the smile, the busyness, the hectic schedule of housework, yardwork, employment, and trying to blog— I feel as if a single breath is too much to take because of the time wasted.

It’s crushing. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a room where the air is slowly seeping out and if I take a chance and scream for help that more air will leave the room, leaving me breathless, hopeless, and utterly in a state of powerlessness.

I keep a notebook on my desk to jot down thoughts throughout the day to myself or random notes about my students (I teach English to foreign language learners). The other day I sat in my chair and stared at the wall. I gazed at the picture of my grandma that I have hanging on my wall and remembered everything she did for me, her strength, and her resolve.  I hung this picture on my wall because I draw strength from not only remembering her, but remembering that, in this picture and at that moment, she was giving a speech to an audience about cancer. She was terrified and didn’t know what to say, but she acted in spite of her fear, because she had a message to deliver. Her message was: “Never lose hope.”

Hope Heals

My grandmother was a four-time cancer survivor. She survived colon cancer, breast cancer (twice), and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She was given 6 months to live with a newborn at home at the age of 30. Imagine that. Your life is ahead of you and you have just been handed your death sentence. What would you do?

She chose to do two things: cry and pray. She asked God to keep her around until my dad was old enough to take care of himself and would often joke in church “I guess he still can’t take care himself, because I’m still around.” My dad was well into his 50’s when she said this and it always got a laugh. What a ham.

So why am I talking about my grandma during a time when it sounds like my internal world is crashing around me and I feel like a person up to his head in water and can barely force a breath in between the crashing waves? I’m talking about her, because her memory, her example, and her sacrifice give me hope.

Hope is real.

Hope is something that can’t be sold, taught, or marketed.

You, the hopeless, have the very personal and intimate responsibility to seek out and find hope. But, I must confess that this is a part of the Scriptures that I believe wholeheartedly, “If you seek, you will find.”

My grandma had hope. The hope that rested in her heart was real, but it does not mean she didn’t worry, she didn’t suffer, she didn’t live a life without struggle. Quite the contrary. My grandma was an overcomer, a fighter, and a person who would not give up no matter what was in front of her. She forged on with the resounding message of ‘I can do it’ and also to me “Danny, you’ve been successful in everything you’ve ever done. You can do anything.”

At this moment, when I feel like I can’t keep going, am on a 10 day work stretch, in Purgatory with the healthcare system waiting to find out the fate of my mother and if she has cancer, or not; I’m financially strapped, physically exhausted, spiritually spent, and internally wound so tight that I snap like a Rice Krispy Treat from arthritic symptoms when I move, but I just sit back and smile and realize “I have hope”.

Viktor Frankl once said “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Indeed. My situation has not changed, but I surely have.

Beautiful, almost divine, gifts have come from this period of ultimate exhaustion and stress.

The Scriptures call these “fruits” and I can see why—because they taste so sweet.

Instead of anger, sadness, resentment, bitterness; instead of these things, I have been showing love, kindness, affection, encouragement, and positivity like never before.

Grace. I want to do one thing, but my heart lives a better Way.

It’s beautiful, really.

Don’t be afraid of the dark moments, dear friends. Consider the stars in the sky. Some of the most beautiful scenes come out in the darkest of nights. So, it is with hope.

The greatest lesson of this moment right now is that life has ceased to be about me.

Funny.

I’m 31 and just now learning a simple truth, yet profound truth.

“It’s not about me.”

And here’s the secret: It never was.

Hope has you. Do you have Hope?

If you’re going through the darkest of nights right now and life seems so overwhelming that you can’t breathe, can’t sleep, can’t eat, and can’t even imagine making it another day; don’t lose hope.

Grandma was given 6 months to live at the age of 30. She died in 2012, 90 years old, walking her final walk at the Relay for Life (the cancer walk). She was told not to walk the Survivor’s Lap and said “I have to. If something happens to me, I’m going out the way I want to.”

Minutes later, she did just that. She died. Grandma walked half a lap and died from a heart attack instantly.

She went out with her final breath showing people that, you too, can have hope.

She was the oldest cancer survivor in our town (at that time).

As I’m writing this, I’m looking at a stone on my desk from my grandma’s casket that says “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

Grandma not only left me with a memory, but also with hope. The very power and love that burned in her, burns in me.

I no longer grieve her loss because I know she never left.

She lives in me.

Her story goes on.

Hope despite all of the negativity.

She wrote to me this future tattoo in 2008 when she penned, “My love and prayers will always be with you”.

Love transcends time and death. I do believe that and it’s because of her memory, her faith, hope, and love that I can get through this today.

Faith.

Hope.

Love.

The greatest of these is love.

As the Scriptures say “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

I promise you, from the bottom of my beat up soul, it will pass.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) talks about “radical acceptance”. I have grabbed onto that, because what will be, truly, will be; but there is no reason I can’t do everything in my power to bring some light to the dark.

I share this tonight, not only to shine a light of love into my own darkness, but to extend the light of love to yours.

Be well my friends,

D6

 

When Life Transcends Death: How a Pink-Haired Cancer Survivor Taught me to Hope


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APA Reference
, . (2016). When Life Transcends Death: How a Pink-Haired Cancer Survivor Taught me to Hope. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/desk-couch/2016/05/when-life-transcends-death-how-a-pink-haired-cancer-survivor-taught-me-to-hope/

 

Last updated: 3 May 2016
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.