Value. What does it mean? Who has it? How do we get it? Do we deserve it or is it just ours?
This is a question that I pondered for quite some time when I had my first battle with cancer in 2002 - 2005. What did I ever do to deserve cancer? Was it a curse on my life? Did I do something that cancer was the tool in order to teach me a lesson and put me back on track? Did I still matter to people and society? Would I ever be an asset? Could I be used? Would my opinions and thoughts matter? Will I be successful?
I brutalized myself when the answer was so clear and it was directly in front of me. I worked day and night to keep up with my school work, I had a summer jobs, I did two grades in one year in order to graduate with my friends, I played on a youth band as well as the high school band which was one of the best in Alberta and even had the opportunity to go down to California and play at Disneyland and record with Warner Bro's (for fun) to Pirate's of the Caribbean (though I didn't go because of treatments), I was counselor at a summer camp for several summers, and I accepted speaking engagements whenever they came my way...I did all of this while going through chemo and radiation.
Did I do because I was searching for an answer - was I insecure that life might be swept from underneath me if I didn't cling to it? Was I trying to cover up my illness and focus on other things? I don't think so. I remember always going, going, going. My illness never kept me down and held me back from life and doing the things I loved to do. I discovered a passion and a desire to live life and live it to it's fullest. I had a passion and desire to serve and be a tool to any event, function, project, or mission...I discovered that even though challenges come my way and I have my ups and downs in life (like we all do), I discovered that those things do not interfere with my purpose and my destination as long as I do not let them because I know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Therefore I am valuable and so are you.
I often use this illustration when I speak to a group about being the change and knowing that you have whatever it takes to do whatever your heart desires and dreams of. Here it is:
If you were walking the streets of your city and you found a 5 dollar bill on the ground, would you pick it up? Yes. Why? Because it's 5 bucks. It has a value. You can buy things with it. If you were walking down the same street and you came across that same 5 dollar bill on the ground but this time it was stomped on and a little dirty, would you pick it up? Yes, because it still has value and after a little brushing off of the dirt and making it look decent it is still 5 bucks and it still has value and can still be used. That same street, your walking down and you find that same 5 dollar bill. This time it is stepped on, dirty, wrinkled and ripped; would you still pick it up? Yes! Because you put it in your pocket, take it home, brush off the dirt, flatten the bill, tape it back together where it's been ripped and it can still be used. It still has value to it and it can still be used.
The same is true for our lives. Life isn't always fair. We are dealt with disease, poverty, being fired from a job, a loved one turning on us, wars, and race turning against race. If you step back and take a look at our world - you can sometimes just shake your head at the things people are going through and you can ask why is this happening...OR...you can choose to rise up against it and be the change, knowing that you have VALUE. You've been stepped on, spit on, your full of dirt, and you've been ripped in so many places. But the truth is suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Therefore, over time if you allow yourself, you will be brushed off, cleaned up, flattened, and mended back together. Nothing can interfere with your purpose and your destination if you don't allow it. I have value, you have value, we have value and we can achieve great things and be the change!
Yesterday afternoon Christa and I had an interview with a newspaper and the reporter asked how do I go from a state of being mad, hearing the prognosis that my cancer had come back, thinking I am going to die, to a state of mind with a positive energy, a passion to fight with all that I have, knowing that I am going to be okay, and not allowing this to get the best of myself.
My answer was very simple and the reporter seemed in awe that this is actually possible. The first time I went through cancer I was only 14 - so you can imagine the shock and the fear that I was experiencing at that time in my life. Not having a clue about cancer, the treatments, the pain, or anything I was about to undergo I immediately thought I was going to die. I had a death sentence and I felt like it didn't matter what I did it wouldn't change my outcome.
You never really have time to accept that type of news...things just happen so fast and all of a sudden your thrown into the ride of your life of a roller coaster and you have no clue what to expect. You haven't had the chance to stand on the ground and observer this thing. You don't know where the loops and twists and turns are, you don't know if the bolts are securely fastened - you don't know anything. It's just buckle up and here we go! But over time as I became comfortable and understanding of my situation there were times when my attitude was running on high and I was full of fighting power. During those times...my treatments were successful. Side effects were minimal, my counts started to come back up, my appetite came around, my energy increased, and my overall emotional and mental strength rose higher. But during the times that I was discouraged and focused on my situation and allowed my mind to be filled with feelings and fear and anxiety - those were the times the treatments weren't doing what they were supposed to do, the times I was hospitalized with infections and my counts dropping to a severely low level and my mind had no drive to fight. I was done.
This time around - because I have been through cancer before I knew what to expect but I also knew that my attitude would be a large percentage of my battle. And say it's just coincidence or just how things happen - but this time around I have seen those patients who have a terrible attitude and are allowing their illness to get the best of them and they are struggling. They are having a hell of a ride and they are filled with fear, anxiety, worry, and depression. And I have seen the patients who have a strong attitude and a desire to beat this thing out of their world. Like the lady who walks around the unit all day every day choosing not to lie in bed all day and soak in her disease. Or the guy who walks on the treadmill with his IV hooked up to him, or the other guy who is bald and has chemo pumping through his system but still works out and maintains a fit body and chooses to bring his meals to the common area and eats in front of the TV rather then staying in his room all by himself and being lonely. Those are the ones who are having a walk in the park with this and have chosen to take an obstacle in their life and say - BRING IT ON! It is evident that our attitude plays a vital role in the challenges that we face in life - not just cancer or disease, but in any obstacle or challenge that comes our way.
Before I wrap up today's journal I must acknowledge the continued support and encouraging energies that are being sent our way. We are so blessed and grateful for those who have stood up behind us and are cheering us on running with us to the finish line. We have continued to receive countless emails from people across this country and have even learnt that people are dedicating their Canadian Cancer Relay For Life event in honor of Christa and I and one person is also doing the Bike Ride to Conquer Cancer in support of us as well!
We are so grateful for the support and look forward to participating in some of those events in the following years!
Take care friends!