It’s a rainy day here in the Windy City. It’s the kind of day when I’m glad I can stay home with my shoes off and my stank on. A day when a little sadness feels so good. A day for writing, reflecting and listening to music. Today, I’m lucky enough to work with what nature is giving me, and I’ve got a musical sermon in three parts for you.
It’s Hard To Get Around The Wind by Alex Turner is a song about fighting against nature. Against the seemingly inevitable. Striving for the unattainable. Giving up but not being able to go away.
Cancer often comes as a package deal with depression. I can’t hear this song without thinking of those fighting an ongoing battle with cancer. I can’t hear this song without thinking about my own struggles with cancer and feeling depressed.
Even though you know the way it’s gonna blow, It’s hard to get around the wind.
For every cancer survivor who just knew they were gonna beat it, there is a cancer survivor struggling with active or recurrent disease that feels guilty for not being positive enough to beat it. From the minute you are diagnosed, friends, doctors, nurses and strangers will remind you of the importance of being positive. As if positivity is something you can force. You just decide and poof… positivity! Followed shortly by remission. A storybook beginning.
Imagine the pressure. Imagine the guilt.
Often cancer feels beyond us. Often cancer IS beyond us. It’s presence untouchable. It’s course inevitable. We know the way it’s gonna blow. And it’s gonna blow hard.
I am now 420 days post transplant. Every step I take back — or rather forward — to life as I knew it, requires an awareness of what is in my control and what is beyond it. This is not something I’m always willing to accept. It’s easier if it’s beyond me. I give it my all, but sometimes I’d rather hide. Or just abide. And that is okay.
Alex Turner has another song entitled Hiding Tonight, which gets at this idea pretty well…
Recently, I had dinner with a friend whose lymphoma not only returned, but also relocated to a new location. In the middle of sharing her next steps, she said with shocking solemnity, “I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the notion that I will be dealing with this the rest of my life.”
I didn’t say anything. I just kept listening. She was so matter of fact — the way cancer survivor’s can be. It stuck with me.
As we wrapped up the meal and headed toward goodbye, my head was swimming — I wanted to find the perfect words of inspiration to leave with her. But I stopped short…
There is a moment I like to call the Come to Jesus moment. It’s that moment when we put all the niceties aside and shit get’s real. I don’t mean to be offensive. It’s just a phrase that cuts to the heart for me. It captures what it feels like when you finally see clearly and honestly.
This was a Come to Jesus moment for me. I know her pain. What she feels about her disease is nothing short of profound. So many of us have fought so hard. So many of us have fought so hard and lost. Even the most positive among us have lost. It’s easy to “let go and let God” everyone else’s problems, but we all know our own problems quite well. Nothing stings more than some prick coming along and saying, “Cuuumon… it’s easy! Just…”
Now, I’d like to offer my little online congregation an opportunity to Come to Jesus…
If you have never known cancer, the next time you talk to someone with cancer and ask, “So how are you doing?” Watch them go scrambling and scraping for all the positive moments and tidbits of progress they have experienced to share with you. This is an opportunity to take pause. Imagine how vast this cancer survivor’s struggles have been. Envision the horrible things this cancer survivor isn’t telling you because they want to be positive and easy to talk to. It’s nice that you asked. It really is. But it’s a profound and insanely positive thing they are doing. For you. So take a moment to feel a deep appreciation for the strength of that person. You are now free to go forth, greatly encouraged and suddenly grateful for how easy you have it.
If by chance on that particular day, they don’t have it in ’em, and they pour out an uncomfortable list of problems and doubt and fear they are in the thick of… just listen. Listening is a beautiful act of kindness. In that moment, your listening ear is all the solution they need. You may know the way it’s gonna blow, but it’s hard to get around the wind. Take a moment to appreciate this survivor’s wind, and you will be a better friend… and conversationalist. I guarantee it.
So here’s to all my fellow cancer fighters out there — keep walking. Fuck the wind. Best advice I got.
And I have one request, which Bruce Springsteen puts best…