The first time I was invited to a luncheon with a group of women who were cancer survivors was in April 2008. I was reluctant to say yes, as I feared it would indeed be a dismal conversation. It seemed awkward to say no, though, since a survivor of breast cancer had asked me. The only time in the past I had spoken with fellow survivors was when I met them in the chemotherapy room. But I said yes and went.
To date, I have not missed a lunch outing with them since. It was my destiny to attend these.
This group epitomizes diversity. They represent the educated to uneducated, poor to wealthy, young moms to old grandmothers, professionals to stay-at-home moms, but all with one thing in common. The commonality that bonds this group is a past diagnosis of cancer that has forever changed their lives. All these differences fade into oblivion when the group meets, in the blink of an eye. We are one and the same, compassionate women who care about each other and about life. Cancer is a reality check we all passed with flying colors!
Our vanity is not called into question when we meet. It is not uncommon to comment on someone’s hair to ask whom their stylist is only to find out their new style is a wig. That always brings up laughter from us! Losing hair is just part of the process of getting back to being healthy.
We reveille in each other’s successes, whether it is Linda who had a wonderful time swimming with the dolphins in Hawaii last month, or another Linda who is just grateful for another day alive. Her prayer is that each day puts her one-step closer to a cure for her abnormal type of cancer. She is part of a test study and we are thankful she is willing to participate because her involvement may one day save us or another loved one we know. Patty has just recovered from surgery and Becky is extremely pleased her children are back for another round of school! Yes, we simply delight in each other and the small steps. We understand the small steps add up to walking the journey of life.
Gone from this group are the normal tedious issues that abound women’s groups elsewhere. We leave egos at the door, refuse to catfight, and have no jealousy towards each other’s accomplishments, only pride in being together and hearing of successes. We grief for those that have passed on from cancer but we also know they are present in spirit.
The cancer diagnosis has humbled us. We recognize we are vulnerable and feel blessed to be labeled survivor. We have an understanding of life that comes from confronting death, our own mortality. We have deepened our faith commitment and learned to delight in the small steps that makes up life.
To put it bluntly, we get it, the big picture. That is, life is precious. Life can be fleeting. Enjoy every moment of it!