I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “It tastes sweet does it not?”
“You’ve caught me,” grief answered, “and you’ve ruined my business. How can I sell sorrow when you know it’s a blessing?”—RUMI
I have a story to tell you about a family. It’s not the Joneses or the Addams, and it’s not a Modern family, nor is it made up of mobsters. What it is, is the single most compassionate, generous, and helpful family I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And my hope for you is that you will never have occasion to get to know them.
They are the Cancer family.
My daughter was diagnosed with cancer a few short weeks ago. It feels more like 10 years since time suspended itself inside this raw, surreal experience. If Einstein had ever moved beyond trains, he would have found that the most powerful effect of all on the perception of time is extreme adversity.
Without speaking for my daughter, I can tell you this is brutal. It’s all that you imagine, particularly that numbing flashpoint when you learn it’s you, or worse, your child. Totally humbled by her courage and determination, it brings me to easy tears watching my kid navigate in this awful space.
Awful . . . except for the remarkable people I have encountered, hiding out there among the “normals,” hidden in the costumes of their everyday lives, all the while harboring deep and profound experiences inside. These cancer pilgrims emerged as if someone had blown reveille, and they responded with all manner of support, counsel, and resolute advocacy.
A cancer diagnosis is paralyzing. You don’t know where to begin. There are so many dizzying angles from which to approach the, dare I say, life-or-death issues, i.e., diagnosis, treatment, side effects, identifying the best doctors and hospitals, etc. The brochures don’t tell you what you need to know. Nor do the handouts at doctors’ offices. Like most things, the nuances are what really matter, that secret sauce that makes the terror more tolerable, and in some cases the difference between good outcomes, or not.
Spurred on by legions of kindred spirits, via hundreds of Facebook posts, e-mails, dozens of phone calls, and face-to-face meetings, we have found the best doctors in the land, right in our own backyard at the University of Minnesota. We’re lucky to be where we are and we’re grateful for our newly adopted family. Theodore Roethke said, “In a dark time the eyes begin to see.” And in this dark time, I see humanity shining.