We Are Strongest Where We Are Broken


A cancer survivor explains how she applies the meaning of a book quote to life with cancer.

I am a huge fan of books written by Louise Penny. I love mysteries and read them voraciously, but her novels are special. Because of my background with a Ph.D. in counseling, I like to delve into what makes human beings behave as they do. Rather than gory descriptions of blood and guts, Penny talks about the psychological aspects of what can drive a person to murder someone else.

The main character, Gamache, is a homicide detective. He supervises young cadets on how to figure out who the murderer is by detecting which person is most desperate to do this horrible crime.

I have written about her novels before. A recent quote stood out for me in her book, “The Kingdom of the Blind.” The quote was “Things are strongest where they are broken.” Two agents for a homicide division had been shot in the line of duty and had recovered. They agreed they were stronger both mentally and physically than before because they had to be, but the pain of the mending was terrible.

This quote does not just belong in a murder mystery, but in life and in explaining human behavior. It especially applies to cancer survivors. We are emotionally broken because of the prospect of dying.We are physically broken from the ravages of chemo, radiation, surgery and other invasive treatments.

Add to this the tragedies of life in general. There is no denial that trauma, illness, death of a loved one and now a pandemic have been awful experiences for all of us. These tragedies devastate us, overwhelm us, knock us down and we are not sure we can get back up.

But the day we do, we start with tiny baby steps, putting one foot in front of the other. Then bigger steps and eventually longer steps. We may not get to where we were before, but we realize something wonderful. We are stronger where our hearts and our bodies have been broken. Our faith, our belief in ourselves and our priorities of what is important have made us stronger, more resilient and more courageous. Penny is right – we are stronger where the broken parts are.

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