(Note: It was two years ago tomorrow that I met Lauren Hill for the first time. I showed up for her 5 a.m. basketball practice — yes, 5 a.m. ! — grumbling about having to get up so early. And then I watched this amazing young woman jog up and down the court. She changed my outlook on life in some ways. I wrote this blog about it two years ago. Here is is again in case you missed it. It’s worth thinking about again. — Joe)
My day yesterday started with my usual wake-up routine — sitting in a chair, sipping my first cup of coffee, checking up on Facebook posts — when one of them made me smile.
A long-time friend in Cleveland has endured 250 days of chemotherapy and radiation. He’d just received the results of his latest scan: No trace of cancer anywhere. Yes! Chuck noted that “the collateral damage has been great” from all the chemicals and radiation. He now stumbles around and has trouble typing, both temporary conditions. But he’s cancer-free.
Stumbling, yet still standing.
What a great way to start a day. A friend had a new chance at life.
A few hours later, I wrote a story about Lauren Hill. She’s the freshman basketball player at Mount St. Joseph University who has an inoperable brain tumor. She’s getting ready to play in her first game on Sunday. The tumor has protrusions that squeeze her brain, robbing her gradually of coordination. She’s right-handed, but has to shoot lay-ups with her left hand now because of the cancer. She gets dizzy if she turns her head.
The tumor squeezes, and she squeezes back, holding onto life as tightly as she can. Her life is measured in weeks and days. She’s living them as fully as she can.
The tumor squeezes, and she squeezes back
Loving as much as she can. Making as many left-handed lay-ups as she can.
I finished the story, got ready to head off to a friend’s retirement party, and checked Facebook one more time. Surprise! Another friend had just posted that he, too, received scan results. Mark was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on Nov. 1 last year. The arduous and exhausting treatment program had worked. The cancer is gone.
Mark posted a photo of himself hugging his oncologist as he got the good news.
What a snapshot of life, huh? Beating cancer in two cases, fighting it to the end in the other.
There was more.
Before heading to sleep, I checked my email and read an update from a friend. Her daughter-in-law had gone through a very difficult pregnancy that was a very tough struggle. The baby was born early. All are doing well.
A sacred struggle lived with great love
A life was brought into the world through a sacred struggle, one that starts with our first breath and continues until our last. A struggle that we recognize as an integral part of the greatest gift.
A sacred struggle lived with great love.
Giving birth. Getting chemo drips. Making left-handed lay-ups. Clinging tightly to life even as it sometimes squeezes the life out of us for a little while. Developing a deep appreciation for the challenges and struggles that are exquisite, daunting and divine.
And worth it. Oh so worth it.