“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” Breast Cancer Survivors
Unless you have been completely absent from our world, you know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are lots of fundraising events. TV, radio, newspapers and Internet connections all provide substantial visibility into the many organizations involved with cancer research and support for patients who are currently in treatment.
This week, I will be speaking at a three-day event, Camp Blue Bird, in Mobile, Alabama. Supported by medical teams and volunteers, this will mark the 25th year of these camps dedicated to cancer patients and survivors. When first asked to speak, I am very excited about the invitation! The opportunity to address such an audience is a first for me.
Then, it hits me! What am I going to say? Will I say it in the right way?!
To help me in this important mission, and to answer all of my questions, I decide to speak to cancer patients – those who are still in treatment and those who have graduated to the stage of cancer survivor. I talk to one of the founders of Camp Blue Bird. I listen to the stories. I am drawn in! Ordinary people, just like those we interact with every day, have experienced cancer personally, as a caregiver, or as a professional trained in helping patients in various levels of therapy. It is likely that you know of someone familiar with this experience. Cancer is most visible when it strikes a friend or family member. One of my sisters, Brenda, is now in her first year of treatment for breast cancer.
Cancer is not for the weak! It requires that you ‘put all of your chips on the table.’ It asks for – even demands – help from an assortment of caregivers, including medical specialists credentialed in cancer care, family and friends. Hope . . . encouragement . . . attitude . . . are the common words I hear as I listen to the stories of those who have trudged along the cancer journey. I find in these revealing conversations that cancer patients and survivors are indeed transparent. They are personal in their sharing, even with someone like me, who has only met them by phone.
There is no one single path. It is different for each patient. But, one particular mutual theme is that of challenge. “Once you have cancer, you have it for life,” as stated by my sister. I ask her to explain. She says there is no guarantee that it will not come back. She does not focus on this fact, but is aware of that possibility. Everyone who fights cancer is a winner, in my book! A winner at the highest level – where life is at stake and the journey inevitably painful, uncomfortable and uncertain.
You can learn a lot from someone affected by cancer. Everyone I have talked with has expressed great appreciation for help provided from those surrounding them. They have huge hearts of gratitude. Zig Ziglar said it well: “The greatest attitude is gratitude.”
I witness an important life principle as I listen to all the stories: When you reach out to help others, especially those in need, the gift back to you cannot be measured in money or by things. It is priceless. It will affect every single aspect of your life. From an old prayer of long ago, attributed to the Franciscan priest, Saint Francis of Assisi, “It is in giving that we receive.”
If you are looking for inspiration, for a way to positively influence all areas of your life, seek and find a person or group who really needs your help. Then, provide that help. When you help others, you cannot avoid helping yourself. Your expressive act of love becomes an internal influence on you. Everything you are trying to do in your life will be impacted in a positive way by your reaching out to those in need.
Cancer patients I interview for my presentation tell me that they are now a “different person.” I believe the same is true for those who provide support and clinical help. You become a changed person through the process.
My job as speaker this week is to provide hope and encouragement to those in the audience. After interviewing and listening to the journey of cancer patients, I find myself in the wonderful position of being encouraged! I find hope for my own journey. I discover inspiration.
It is easier to encourage another person when you are indeed encouraged . . .
It is easier to offer hope when others give you hope . . .
It is easier to inspire when you have been inspired . . .
Every time you reach out to encourage, provide hope or to inspire, you help others in doing the same.
When you reach out to support others, you are also reaching inside to support yourself. There is no greater influence on your life than the example you set for yourself. It becomes part of a permanent memory that belongs to you. Every aspect of your life – short- and long-term – will be impacted by the good things you do as you reach out to others.
Are you seeking a change right now in your life? Is today that day? There is a fundamental principle, around since the beginning of time, greatly influencing my own life, and continues to do so. That principle is simple to state and is just one significant word. However, it will require much of what you have to give. It will affect everything. Are you ready for a change today?