A couple of days ago, I woke early thinking about my friend Shannon. You may remember I wrote about her a couple of years ago, about how she was recovering from a stem cell transplant and for the first time in 50 days was tucking her three small children into their beds.
The first transplant didn’t do the trick, nor did the second one. Shannon’s had some tricky, ugly diagnoses throughout her three years of cancer treatment; her journey has been one of progressions and set-backs. Each time she and her family–including her parents, siblings and an army of friends–has rallied with an amazing sense of optimism and hope.
Today, Shannon and crew begin what may be the biggest challenge yet. It’s Hail Mary, pull-out-all-the-stops time as she enters Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York for her third stem cell transplant set for August 9.
Can you imagine? I can’t conceive of replacing any part of my body once, let alone three times. It’s been said that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle and that the crosses we bear are less heavy when we approach them with faith, hope and optimism. But, geez, three transplants?
We probably all know of someone like Shannon, a person we admire by the way she or he faces long odds and major hurdles with spiritual confidence. Meanwhile, we shake our heads and wonder to our friends and co-workers how the Shannons of the world make it through their ordeals.
I believe these special people let nothing tarnish their joy because it never occurs to them to act any differently. Many of us would curl up in a fetal position and wait for the raging storm of life to pass. At a minimum, we’d sit in Starbucks railing about how the world had done us wrong.
The Shannons out there aren’t trying to make the rest of us look bad. On the contrary. They aren’t even aware that they give us an incredible gift by teaching us how to face our own travails.
No problems, only mountains and valleys
I believe another reason why people like Shannon soldier on is because they understand that life is ebb and flow, give and take, mountains and valleys. We human creatures were not born to have our lives stretch out in a straight line of even circumstances, although sometimes we think that’s what we would like.
But then we’d miss the glorious view from the mountain top and the curtain of rainy mist in the valley. One necessitates the other. Comfort lies in trusting that we will eventually walk through the valley of the shadow, as the Psalmist said. We don’t linger there forever, trapped in gloomy conditions.
At some point the path will grow steeper and we’ll see the sun rising over the mountain range that’s just come into view. The rhythm of life continues.
Shannon believes–and so do I–that the third time is the charm. The radical approach to her treatment will eradicate all cancer cells in her body. She will have to spend a more significant time away from her kids, missing birthdays and scout camps and probably Thanksgiving, but the short-term loss is worth the long-term gain.
She’ll be around to watch them grow through their teenage years and college. She’ll get to watch them marry and then bounce their children on her knee. Her hair will eventually turn grey and her knees may creak and groan.
Through it all, she’ll celebrate the sanctity of the precious gift of life and know that these months in New York, 1,000+ miles from her kids, was a valley she had to walk through.
Thank God she’s not walking alone. None of us ever walks alone.
Photo courtesy of shebaduhkitty