Those of us who live with cancer don't just hope for the good reports, clear scans or positive lab results.
My wife and I have a neighbor who is a woman that we've been close to for several years in our "over 55" community in Arizona. Ours is the kind of neighborhood where clusters of friendships are built based on common interests. Our core group is made up of active seniors — with most of us playing golf, tennis or pickle ball. In my case it's the latter.
So, when our friend was quite suddenly diagnosed with metastatic cancer affecting many of her organs, the light dimmed a bit in our crowd. A diagnosis of cancer never eases into our lives. It frequently hides away to fester for years before suddenly erupting and altering our path forever. And of course, it's often surprising that the diagnosis doesn't seem to fit the lifestyle of the people affected.
My friend's husband has been my primary source of information concerning her condition. As a man with cancer myself and who lost a wife to advanced ovarian cancer 23 years ago, I've seen this disease from both sides; and it's for that reason that I try to be of service to both husband and wife in this case.
And so we keep in touch by checking in on both of them most every day. And lately, things have not been going well for our friend. Naturally, that includes her husband too. Cancer, after all, is never a solo disease. So when I asked them both about what we could do for them and what they needed, her answer was both succinct and genuine.
"One good day."
I realized at that moment that surviving and living with cancer is a complicated endeavor, with chemotherapies, clinical trials, experimental drugs, invasive procedures and so much more. And while we wish for positive reports and encouraging news, when all is said and done it is often our basic need for a simple, serene and pain free day — just a single day – that takes center stage in our lives.
With all of the miracles of modern medicine at our disposal (at least for some of us) there are times when we just want to shut out the turmoil and turn down the volume of the voice of cancer that pierces our silence. If only it could be that easy.
What my courageous friend and her intrepid husband have taught me is that this very day I'm living as a cancer survivor is the most important day of my life. And it will remain that way until tomorrow when, if I'm so fortunate, I'll have another one to follow.
While we all long for a positive future, our "one good day" is happening right now. How I wish I could help my friend in her simple, unpretentious request. But even the greatest oncologists in the world are no better at granting this wish than anyone else you'll meet. A number of cancer survivors I know experience the side effects of treatment every day. So, while every day can't always be a good one, we can often continue on with the unbending belief that a better day is just around the corner. And that is something I wish for all of us.
"If you don't think every day is a good day, just try missing one." —Cavett Robert