A common sight on the silver screen and unfortunately in the lives of many in the Lasallian community is the struggle of the terminally ill and the traumatic wake it leaves behind on those around them. For many of us, it’s bad enough that our parents, who have always been these larger-than-life figures in our lives, are at times absent and elsewhere when we need them the most. It’s even worse to think that the same people whom most of us regard as our best friends could disappear in the blink of an eye. There has never been a more stark reminder of the harsh reality, that is our brief flickering existence, than the very real possibility of death: Your own or of one you love. It is with this article that writers of The Lasallian hopes to shed a light on the struggles of the people placed at the forefront of familial tragedy and heartbreak.
Weak, pale as a ghost, sickly, and hunched over — the common media portrayals of people diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. One glance at Beth*, however, and all you would see is a meek, mild-mannered woman who goes about her own business and always puts others’ needs before her own. You never would have guessed the whirlwind of lifestyle changes, doctor’s appointments, and chemotherapy sessions she had to undergo just a few months prior. October had always just been her birthday month and a chance for kids and kids at heart to celebrate Halloween. Now, she finds herself among millions upon millions of people who acknowledge and participate in Breast Cancer Awareness month.
A test of faith
Having learned of her mother’s diagnosis of Stage 2A breast cancer, Lily’s* generally positive outlook on life had become sullen, and she found herself questioning just about everything she knew and was supposedly sure of. Was there really a God out there? If so, why did it feel like she was being treated unfairly? Even with the support of family and friends, why couldn’t she shake the feeling of loneliness and unease? Was the same thing going to happen to her in the future? So many questions left unanswered, and the person she trusted and turned to in times of need was confined in the hospital, battling an illness that seemingly came out of nowhere.
As such, Lily shared that she had started to doubt the strength of her faith, and she became angrier and moodier. Even though she had grown up with a Roman Catholic upbringing, at that point in her life she recounted feeling so hurt and betrayed by God that she lashed out and stopped praying and going to church. “I just couldn’t see the point in it anymore,” she confessed. “How could He let that happen to my mom, and to our family?”
Needless to say, Lily felt horrible all the while, and she knew she had to talk to someone about what was going on to avoid bottling everything up inside of her. Though they knew it was nothing compared to what Beth was going through, Lily and her father were struggling as well. Most of the time they only had each other to lean on, and even if there were much tensions between the two, Lily shared that, “We became closer and we knew we had to be strong. It was my dad who told me to keep praying nevertheless, even if he himself did not have the strongest faith to begin with.” It unfortunately took an awful event such as this to serve as an eye-opener to the both of them, but it helped them realize that they needed to be grateful for every little blessing they had.
Not counting the days
It was, however, the looming and very real possibility that Lily could lose her mom that scared her the most. Even if she had been coming to terms with the newfound responsibilities of adulthood, she knew in her heart that she couldn’t say goodbye to Beth, just yet. Lily shares, “I still wanted her to cry her eyes out at my wedding as she saw me walking down the aisle; I still wanted her to hold and sing lullabies to my firstborn as I lay drowsy and drugged after the painful labor; I still wanted her to be there for every milestone that was yet to come in my life.”
Two surgeries and six months of chemotherapy sessions proved to be successful, and Beth has been in complete remission ever since. Lily’s faith has become stronger than ever, and she is grateful to still have a complete family. While she had always seen her mom as somewhat invincible, if there’s anything she learned from what happened it’s that “You should always make sure to let your loved ones know how much you care for them; you never know how much time you have left to spend together.”
People being able to not just overcome something that could have very easily been their end, but to transcend it and become better than ever is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. It is a lesson not only to those of us lucky enough to have avoided the reaper’s gaze, but also for those who may at this moment be dealing the same thing. To those people, you are not alone. We may bicker and at times seem inexorably divided, but it is exactly in our division that strengthens us all the more to be united in our struggle and hope for life to continue. At the ends of our short roads, this fear and pain will be foreign to none of us, so until then let go of minor trifles and hold close those you would be lost without.