There is this strange thing that happens in our household every time we sit down for a little escape while watching television or a good movie. We wait to see if cancer will be part of the storyline or how many cancer treatment commercials will appear.
Early on these sightings had a way of undoing us. You sit down for a little escape from reality and there it was, pushed right back in front of you. There were times Nancy would just get up and leave the room.
Four years in and we are doing much better now. It is almost a second laugh line in our viewing experience. We cast knowing glances at each other. Kind of a silent checking in to make sure each other is doing okay while the show continues.
This past week presented another one of those moments for me.
The passing of Chadwick Boseman has caused me to wrestle with my own illness in ways I have not for some time.
I want to express condolences to his family and friends. I pray peace, healing, and wholeness upon them. My heart breaks as I can only imagine what they have endured over the past few years.
I understand it is not all about me. Yet our stories share some common elements:
- Diagnosed with colon cancer
- Diagnosed in 2016
That has been enough to cause me to reflect on my own journey. I have also been thinking about some of the lessons we can learn from the way Chadwick Boseman traveled his cancer journey.
Every cancer journey is unique:
There is no one, correct way to travel the path. Very early on in my cancer journey, I decided to be very open and transparent about most of what I was experiencing. Mr. Boseman opted to keep his journey very private and quiet. One is not better than the other.
Every cancer patient travels a journey that is unique to them. Expecting them to act, behave, share, feel, respond, the way another cancer patient has is not helpful. The best thing we can do is walk alongside the person as they travel their personal journey. We can find ways to help them travel their journey well, not expecting or forcing them to travel it the way we would (or think we would).
When you are clear on your purpose…you push through:
When you stop and think of what Mr. Boseman accomplished during his four-year battle against cancer, well, it is amazing. I do not know the man, never met him. My sense is that he had a clear sense of purpose and direction. He knew what gave him life, what fulfilled him, and he pursued it with all the energy he had.
I also have a sense that he worked hard to provide well for his family. Cancer has a way of crystalizing some of your thinking. Knowing that your family will most likely outlive you there is a desire to make decisions, to prepare the way so they will do well in your absence. Again, I do not know him, yet my sense is that with each film came more money which meant greater financial stability for his family. Purpose.
A shout out to all the doctors, nurses, medical staff:
THANK YOU. I can’t say this loud enough. For four years you cared for this man, and you empowered him to travel his journey on his terms. I shudder to think of the number of staff, nurses, doctors, insurance people who saw papers with his name on it and were able to remain quiet. THANK YOU.
All the special arrangements, that must have been made so paparazzi would not capture pictures of him receiving chemotherapy treatments or recovering from surgery. Empowering people to travel their unique journey is one of the special things these people do. You all did your job well!
People are going to talk:
Yes, no matter what you are going through in life, people are going to talk. There was a time where Chadwick Boseman started losing weight. He made a video where he gave a lot of money to charity. Social media erupted with all kinds of comments about his weight. To be fair, some expressed honest concern for his well-being. There were many more that poked fun, questioned whether he was on drugs, and had other, less than helpful comments. I went on Twitter to find some of those tweets today and oddly enough they have all been removed. Here is an article which highlights some of what went on, fans criticize.
People are going to talk. It is a simple fact of life. You don’t need to be one of them. There is no way for us to know what others are going through. We can speculate, “prayerfully” talk about, or gossip from morning till night. None of it does any good. Not for us, or the person we are talking about. Best to be still, say a prayer on their behalf, and focus on how we can be the best person we can be.
Good friends are important:
People who can support you, care for you, and keep your confidence are sacred. This man was under a media spotlight and his friends did their job of walking with him and keeping quiet about what they knew about his illness. In a world that thrives on spreading the intimate details of the lives of celebrities across all forms of media his friends did what was right and noble.
I have found myself thinking about what it means to be that kind of friend. Rather than try to figure out which of my friends would fit into that category I tried asking a different question. To whom am I that kind of friend? Who knows they can trust me, to be present, to keep quiet, to be faithful? Who do I know that needs a friend like that?