Day 24: 15 Reasons to Live

I watched a documentary on TVO tonight called 15 Reasons to Live.  For my American & UK counterparts I am not too sure you’ll be able to see this incredible documented list, but for others who have access to TVO, it is being repeated tomorrow night at 10pm.  It follows fifteen stories of love, death, triumph, sorrow, journey, health, and renewal. 

There was one common thread in each story; perseverance. When life throws us lemons it is so easy to want to just stop, jump off the ride and sleep until the lemons have been composted.

Once we have moved through the chaos, and crud, we can look back and appreciate the journey for what it really gave us. It may not have been joyful, happy, or any other positive feeling, but it made us who we are today.

I have witnessed so much in my life, one as a very special humour agent in hospitals, and just as an innocent bystander of life. And I am only thirty-four. I have watched a friend walk herself out of an abusive relationship. I have stood beside a mom while her son was diagnosed with renal cancer. Months later, the maps of their faces now altered permanently, they still smiled. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence, but when I asked, sincerely, how they were they both answered with the same ‘Okay.’

I realize that that is a perfectly acceptable state of being. Sometimes we bring our best, but sometimes our best is simply too exhausted. So instead we bring our okay. Okay can keep us moving forward.

Now you’re probably wondering how on earth a mom with a newly diagnosed cancer patient saw any amount of joy in that journey. The truth is, there was little, even close to say none. He was only eight years old. I was angry with the world. I had made a very close bond to this funny little guy. He was sweet, wasn’t a bullying type of kid, smart, and young. In my professionalism I never showed that anger, but mama did. To me, and only me. (I had a rather special role, that I will one day explain) She yelled and cried and was exasperated with the flood of overwhelming emotions. Then she stopped – suddenly. She spoke calmly, ‘we’ll be okay.’

And they were.

There were only two paths to possible recovery: One way, long treatment. Life-altering on him. Long journey. The other: High risk surgery. Short journey. Short treatment. They took the risk. Less than six weeks after his diagnosis he was packing his bags for a new school year.

That risky surgery is now the first method of treatment in that form of cancer. *

My friend has since moved ahead from that turmoil. She is now much better than okay. But Okay got her through. She had to sacrifice a lot for her own safety. Today she wears her story not with shame, but with pride. She takes other women under her wing and is an advocate for healthy relationships.

So where was this going? Yes, reasons to live. “Everything wants to live.” – Alan Zweig

* I am not, nor have ever been a Surgeon or Physician. Everything quoted here is anecdotal from my time with The Therapeutic Clown Program at Sick Kids, Toronto, Ontario.

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