I Will Not Walk Away

I went to the golf tournament fundraiser a few weeks ago. You know the one I wrote about a few post back? I was disconnected from my pump that morning, and expected to feel myself by that evening, but it wasn't happening. My blessed little nausea pills got me through.

It was easy to be touched by this room full of people. Some sharing stories about Todd, most probably having known him, and all walking away with the tremendous sense of loss that everyone feels with his death. I'm sure it was an extremely hard evening for many that were there, masked by the celebration of his amazing life.

For me, the nature of my job and the circles I move in put me in the path of countless stories of young lives snuffed out too soon from this disease. The stories never end, and sadly I know they won't for a very long time. Todd is just one more person on that list, but his friends and family are doing what they can to keep his legacy alive while helping someone in his very shoes. And obviously that someone was me this year.

The proceeds from the event far exceeded my wildest expectations, and I can easily admit that it brought me to tears on a few occasions. The idea that these complete strangers did what they did for me because they want to honor and remember their friend leaves me beyond humbled. I don't think I've ever looked forward to a medical bill in the mailbox, knowing now that I will be able to pay it off this time. I will finally stop getting the monthly reminder of treatments I received almost 2 years ago.

The thing that stuck with me most from this opportunity was this idea behind The Elephant Movement - that elephants will not walk away if one of their herd is down. They will literally hold vigil until that elephant gets back up.

In all honesty, I can say this isn't true of humans. And I say this not just out of my own personal experience, but the experiences of the people that surround me in this exclusive little cancer community I'm in. I am not alone when I tell you that people you wouldn't expect disappear when tragedy strikes, and people you hardly know continue to stay on your doorstep. It is never as you would expect it to be. We are definitely not elephants.

As I shared during the dinner that night, I liken the tragedy of illness to a fire. When the fire breaks out, everyone is standing around watching and helping as the professionals do what they can to tame the flames engulfing the structure. As the flames die down, the crowd starts to thin. The phones stop recording video, and people return to their routine. Just because the flames die down or go out, does not mean the devastation of the fire is over.

I'm no sicker than I was 2 or 3 years ago. The status of my cancer hasn't changed. I still go to the doctor just as often, and get treatment just as much. And up until recently (thank you preschool!), still juggled childcare while I went off to weekly appointments.  Perhaps my appearance as an active, busy, working mother lessens the tragedy, but this elephant is still down.

And now this parade of elephants that aren't even in my herd have surrounded me. And while I know it's impossible to hang around until I get back up, they've provided me with something so great that will help take care of me while I'm down. And they've done so at the inspiration of their friend, whose battle was not won.

I want to pay this forward now, and I look forward to next year when I can be part of this movement to find another elephant in need. Maybe someone who's been down a while and whose humans have walked away. We need to stay for the long term, and see each other through. And we need to commit to not walk away.

1 comment:

Karen said...

So true, Sarah. When I was undergoing cancer treatments, I was amazed by the support I received from quarters where I least expected it.

Here’s to you and your supportive herd.