The first Sunday in June (this year June 3rd) is National Cancer Survivors Day (http://www.ncsdf.org/). According to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, there are 12 million cancer survivors in the United States which translates into roughly one in every 26 people in the United States.
I must admit that I usually have a kind of bah humbug attitude toward these kind of celebration days. I have told myself that one should thank mothers for what they do every day-not only on Mother’s Day, etc. In other words, I have taken a somewhat cynical approach which is concerned that these holidays are an excuse to not honor these people and causes on other days as well as an excuse to sell greeting cards and other products.
However, I find myself feeling differently about this one clearly because this is a club of which I am a member. But not only that. I’m also a member of the father’s club that gets honored on Father’s Day. But I chose that membership and enjoy it every day of my life. This one chose me and it had no right to do that! I spent over 20 years of my life ministering to cancer patients- most of them children. I paid my dues!
That all said, it is a club I am proud to be a member of mostly because I know it is populated by so many thousands of people who are so much more courageous, strong willed, and valiant than I can ever aspire to. It is populated by people who live with physical, emotional and spiritual wounds and struggles far beyond what I have to deal with. I had a great advantage. I had had 20 years to deal with the question “how would I do if I ever had cancer?” I didn’t solve it altogether but I made some progress. But believe me; it was more than freaky to walk down the hall to the OR in a hospital I had served as a chaplain for a couple decades, but this time in a Johnny coat. The surgeon friend of mine who I passed on the way was probably more freaked out than I was. Being HIPAA compliant, he didn’t ask me what I was doing there.
And this is a club I don’t want to be reminded of every day. Every once in a while is alright. PSA test time is not nearly as routine as it used to be.
So how am I different? Am I more aware that I could be real sick at any moment? Absolutely. Am I more motivated to take advantage of the life I have been blessed with in this moment? Absolutely- but still working on actualizing that one. Am I a better chaplain? I hope not. I have never believed that you have to experience something to be compassionate toward someone who is going through it. Am I a survivor? Absolutely!