Last Wednesday a good friend of mine learned that she has Stage 4 breast cancer that has metastasized to her spine, hip and lungs. The diagnosis process started with a routine MRI on Monday to try and figure out why she has been having lower back pain since August. She never suspected cancer as she had a mammogram last month that was clear.
Needless to say the aggression of the disease, the shock of the diagnosis, and the randomness of the entire situation has brought all her family and friends running to weave a network of support and encouragement through this incredibly difficult time. People are so incredibly good and generous at times like this. It is humbling to see and to be allowed to participate.
My friend's brother set up a Caring Bridge page for her so that they could keep everyone informed and connected as this story unfolds. I was reading the guestbook comments today and was very moved by one of them and wanted to share:
We all spend much of our lives differentiating the somewhat good, the mediocre, and the somewhat bad. The words for such things come easily. But the horrendous initially strikes us dumb. When we throw words at it, hoping to defend ourselves, the words fall flat.
It is the same at the other end of the spectrum. The sacred ties our tongues. Only true poetry can give voice to the emotions the sacred elicits. But no words, however deeply felt or carefully chosen, can do the topic justice.
This much, however, is clear. The two ends of the spectrum are linked. If we are right to regard some things as horrendous, and to respond to them initially with shock, that must be because whatever those things attack is rightly regarded with reverence and love. There is some consolation in that thought, because it means that we do live among others worth cherishing. Our shock, on reflection, is a revelation of value. It teaches us what we actually care about and should care about.
The shock registered in so many of these Guestbook entries requires expression. It helps us, your friends, to put in words, however feebly, the love on which the shock rests. Nothing would be gained, for you or for us, by tarrying in the shock. We must somehow move on. You are surely already doing so, and you will have to be patient while our emotions catch up. But as we do move on, into this next phase, you need to know, and we need to say, that we are thinking of you, and pulling for you, every day.
What shocks you? What leaves you tongue tied? What do you care about? And - more importantly - what are you doing about it?