In the fourteen years that I’ve been alive, there isn’t much I have come to discover for myself, but this I believe; the power of will is the strongest force on earth. My grandmother was nothing short of bravura; her smile was contagious, her wit never unappreciated, and her cooking was simply beyond words. When cancer came, we were all knocked down into the dirt, and left without words, but it came as no surprise that she was the first to stand up, brush herself off, and suggest a game of dominos. To me, chemotherapy may as well have been a swear word, but she spoke of it openly, and rather than watching her beautiful hair abandon her slowly, she entered the hairdressers with her head held high, asking to shave it all off. The stylist, a friend of the family, cried as each black lock fell to the linoleum floor like a drop of rain. There were lows, of course, but the thought of death was impossible – she was just so alive. If there is one thing I will keep forever, it is the memory of her throwing her head back and peals of laughter floating through the air at some forgotten joke. The doctors had given her no more than six months. She was, after all, suffering from a cancer so aggressive that visits to Texas had to be made, just to see specialists. After the doctors declared this, my grandmother fought on another year and a half – three times longer than the doctors had expected. I was there when she entered the hospital for the last time.
In the beginning, so many doctors told her that her time was short. So many nurses told her to stop working so hard, to just relax. So many specialists told her the chemo was doing nothing; that it wasn’t worth the pain and would be better to give up. Whenever I recall the words of these cynics, I imagine her, looking amused, and whispering quietly to me, sure showed them, huh?
Towards the end of her pain, my belief was formed – the power of will is the strongest on earth. The will to live, the will to fight through the pain, the will to keep trying even when you know you’re beat. My grandmother could have let go, and I’m sure the end would have quickly come, but she fought tooth and nail for her family, for her friends, and for herself.
I keep a picture of her in my room – I don’t think anyone but me knows it’s there. But each morning, after I wake up, but before I get ready for the day, I look at the photograph of me, lying across her lap, both of us smiling at some inside joke or secret. As I memorize all the details I have forgotten, in my head I hear, you can do it – you are stronger than you think. But the voice I hear isn’t mine – it’s my grandmother’s.
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