This I Believe

Leah - Rochester, New York
Entered on November 18, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I would never call myself an eternal optimist. After years of battling chronic illness as a teenager and young adult, I have had days of discouragement that have brought me to my knees. Yet, somehow I believe I have found gratitude, even in moments of darkness.

At the age of 26, Thyroid Cancer reared its ugly head. I resolved to beat it… and I did. But months later I heard the dreaded “c” word uttered for a second time. “How could this possibly be?” This time it was Hodgkins Lymphoma. Not cancer again. This was the wrong time. I had just begun dating a nice guy and I was planning a road trip that next week with my dad. How easily I forgot that this opponent knows nothing of inconvenience. Truly, there is no right time for cancer. The trip was put off, the nice guy slowly slid off the map and I was left with the realization that I was going to have to put aside my plans to begin another fight.

I didn’t need to be taught how to slow down. This was familiar territory. Mom and Dad came to my rescue and I allowed them the role of caregivers. My body needed to surrender again to the healing process, as well as enduring the challenge of half a year of treatments. However, my mind and my spirit ached for being “normal”, following the ritual and the pace of an ordinary working day. As I slid back into the world of 24-hour pajamas and television talk shows I felt depression’s weight descending upon me.

One morning I was breathless and near tears. Chemotherapy was draining my 28-year-old body and most of all my spirit. I was sick, angry, restless and lonely as I walked down the hall to get a glass of water. On my way I caught sight of something that stopped me. In the dark of a room enclosed by curtains, a beam of sunshine poured through. Lucy, our Labrador retriever lay bathing in that small stream of sunshine. She looked so peaceful and content. Somehow this unpretentious creature knew something I didn’t. I lay down beside her, hugging the warmth that her chocolate fur had absorbed.

As we napped together on the floor I let go. True, this might not have been where I had imagined myself in that space or time. Nothing stopped my longing for a healthy active life. Yet, this moment with a happy dog and a warm splash of sun had lifted me even in that dark moment.

In a fast paced world we forget how meaningful some simple blessings can be. Often it is when we are most challenged that we are allowed the eyes to see them. I believe in the strength we have to seek happiness. Even in despair there can be joy if we choose to see it.