We all join together as a nation in mourning the death of Senator John McCain… diagnosed with an aggressive cancer just over a year ago and ending his life journey over this past weekend.
I was deeply touched by the accounts I read and heard about Senator McCain’s war experiences – mostly about his time served in capture, and how the effects of that time captivity changed so much about his life. It first reminded me, once again, that we should never miss an opportunity to thank a Veteran or a person currently serving to protect our wonderfully free nation. So, thank you to each of you – for giving of your time, sometimes your life, in service to protect my freedoms that we take for granted… thank you, thank you!
But today, I’ve been thinking about something else, that being the sort of ‘generic’ comments we heard last summer when Senator McCain’s diagnosis and prognosis was made. There were many who responded with sentiments such as…
“John McCain is a fighter and he’ll win this fight too.” ~ Vice President Mike Pence
“John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.” ~ Former President Barack Obama
Please know that I am not choosing political sides in the comments that I shared above!
From an article in the Huffington Post last July… Lindsay Holmes, Senior Wellness Editor said, “Support is critical for patients with cancer ― but the words you choose to convey that support matter. But the well wishes leave out an important factor: Cancer doesn’t choose who lives or dies based on how hard someone fights.”
Len Lichtenfeld, the deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, told HuffPost, “Cancer is a serious disease with potentially serious outcomes. Our natural instinct is to obviously want every person diagnosed to do whatever they can to overcome it,” Lichtenfeld said. “For some people that ‘fight’ concept is important. However, for many others, it’s not really the motivational driver that they need to hear at that particular moment.” He also said, “What happens if you’re not successful or the disease doesn’t respond to treatment? What do you say to that person? That you didn’t fight hard enough, that you didn’t commit hard enough or have the willpower to overcome the disease? Of course, the answer is no,” he said. “They could have done everything, they could have gotten the best treatment possible.”
Which brings me to the words I’m posting today. Obviously, no one wants to see any one come to the end of his or her life prematurely. And obviously, we all should be grateful for the bounty of top quality medical help available in this country. And obviously, every person should be free to aggressively treat any illness that happens their way. But, why do we feel so strongly to always encourage a person to “fight on”? I think that perhaps it’s that we don’t have the words, or sometimes the willingness, to simply say, “my heart, my thoughts and my prayers are with you as you walk this difficult journey in your life.” I’ve spent many years working in a hospice environment, and I have met many wonderful persons in both my professional and personal lives who were battling cancer, or other incurable disease. And what I was privileged to watch, time after time after time, was those who were sick embracing their end of life journey with dignity, with grace, and with fortitude. I’ve seen that being this sick takes pure courage. I’ve seen that an unhealable illness has the potential to heal relationships, to focus one on those things and people who are most precious, to even – hard as it may seem – to improve one’s quality of life.
And yes, I know and am most grateful that there are many, many new treatments available to us, to cure us… much gratitude is due for those in research. I spent some time recently with a friend who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and with Parkinson’s Disease, and she is gladly accepting of the treatments being provided to her. But I felt most privileged to be in her presence, and to see her strong spirit and faith, regardless of the outcome of these treatments. May that be the lesson we learn… that life is to be lived to the fullest – always. To those who are ill, of course I share heartfelt wishes for a cure. But for those for whom a cure does not come, may we share wishes that the journey will be lived with dignity and quality. And I believe that we can have a valued role in offering that.
Inspirational writer Shannon L. Alder wrote, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” And I’ll share my favorite quote of all, written by the Apostle Paul in the Bible’s book to the Corinthians… “You show that you are a letter from Christ… written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” Let’s touch a human heart today, and every day… thanks for listening… take care… Leanne