Who Among Us | Essay Submitted as part of #MyGivingStory for #GivingTuesday

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I submitted my essay Who Among Us  to #MyGivingStory a few weeks ago about the reasons why I support Facing Cancer Together.

(Submissions to #MyGivingStory were voted on as part of #GivingTuesday, and are no longer open to voting.)

Whether you’re able to give financially to Facing Cancer Together or not, you can help in a very big way by liking them on Facebook and sharing their updates and calendar of events with your friends, family and colleagues.

Sharing awareness of organizations as pure and authentic as Facing Cancer Together also goes a very long way.

I’d be honored if you take the time to read my piece and if it inspires you to give and/or share–I’ll be most grateful.

Thank you ~ Deb

Who Among Us

I’ve been lying on my back for the past hour, waiting for the alarm to go off. Looking at the ceiling fan and the early morning light, trying to remember everyone we’ve lost, not wanting to forget anyone. I started counting along the fingers on my left hand, and then the right.

Who went first? Was it Pat? Billie? What year? 2005? 2006? Suddenly their names came to me in no particular order. At first there were a few women whose faces I could see but whose names I still couldn’t conjure. Mostly, I remembered their stories and in some cases the first time they introduced themselves to the Writing for Wellness group, at the Wellness Community of Greater Boston, and later Facing Cancer Together.

In the beginning, I didn’t connect to the new name of the organization. Facing Cancer Together seemed like a mouthful and didn’t roll off my tongue easily. But then I realized how fitting it is; when it gets right down to it, that’s who we are and what we are doing. People who come together with one purpose and one purpose only—to face cancer together—because the weight is often too heavy for one person to bear alone.

We come together on Tuesday mornings. Newly diagnosed, in remission, and others like me who have had recurrences, all trying to stay afloat and not let cancer beat us down, and rob our lives of everything. We take turns. Some weeks the voice of strength for others, the ones who offer encouragement—we’ve been there—we can tolerate your pain. Tell us your pain.

We’ve all been the other, the one awaiting test results, and the one who doesn’t know whether this is the time the odds will change. The one who cannot stop crying, who doesn’t believe she’ll ever stop crying. And then she does. Somehow she does.

We write in our journals, guided by prompts. In response to a poem. Moved by a poet. Mary Oliver. Rumi. Stanley Kunitz. Jane Kenyon. In response to nature. The natural world. In response to a Buddhist perspective on life. To the words of Pema Chodron. Thich Nhat Hanh. One or two lines, a stanza. To help us find a way to say what is weighing on our hearts. A way to go inward, to the substance. Our fears. Our memories. Our childhoods. Times past. Lives before cancer. Lives after.

I remember their stories. The women who lost a father at a young age. The ones who grew up in Boston. Chicago. The South. The ones who had happy childhoods. Good marriages. Children. Grandchildren. I remember their family dynamics. The ones who were divorced. Whose children didn’t speak to them. The ones who felt forgotten. The ones who worried they had been a burden. I remember the ones whose families went with them to every appointment, every treatment.

I remember the women who felt cared for. Supported. Loved. Who had good partners and friends. Good relationships with their doctors and caregivers. The ones who knew how to ask for help. How to accept help. I remember the ones we had to coach. You deserve help and support. Don’t you deserve it?

I remember Pat and Christine. Jan and Rita. Billie, Jane and Karen. Bette, Dee and now, Laura. I remember them. I remember all of them.

Whether age thirty-five or seventy-five, they were all too young to die. Their children too young to be motherless. Their partners too young to be alone. There was too much life left.

I always think they’ll beat it. I always believe in the clinical trial, the last-hope measures. I always believe their bodies won’t be ravaged by cancer. I always wonder whether they know at some point—this time they won’t survive.

It’s often said, they died peacefully. They lost their battles with cancer. They said their goodbyes. They were at peace. That it’s us, the survivors, who are left in pain. They’ve been released.

Again we will bury a member of our group. We will say our goodbyes. Shed our tears. In an unspoken agreement, we will leave their seat empty for a while. In respect. In honor. In memory. And then, someone will sit in the seat again. Nervously, we will shift places.

One day the door will open and in will walk a new person. We will wonder whether they will come back to the group a second time. Whether they will join our small circle. Will they find what they need here?

I wonder, who among us will survive.

 

 

 

 

 

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About Deb Hemley

Writer and Social Media Coach http://debbiehemley.com
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