“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. ” -Lupita Nyong’o in her Oscar speech
There are some days when something happens that snaps you back to reality. A chance meeting with someone that lets you know how good you have it. A story in the newspaper that reminds you that you are loved and have others to go home to tightly hold. On Thursday I had one of those days. Boy, did I have one of those days.
If you haven’t noticed from my posts in the last few months, I have been in a survivorship slump. People often think that when treatment is over, life goes back to normal but I have been dealing with anxiety and depression due to what I have experienced over the last year and also from the side effects that I have.
I was in the waiting room this past Thursday morning to see my therapist. While I was waiting, I needed to use the restroom. Both were occupied but quickly one of the doors unlocked and I noticed something was banging against it. My therapist is in the ambulatory care hospital so it’s common to see people with canes, walkers, wheelchairs and in stretchers. I went over to the door and offered my help. The man accepted. He was in a wheelchair and thanked me for opening the door. “It is so hard. It is so hard,” he said to me. “It looks like it’s really hard. I can’t believe they don’t have a button for people in wheelchairs to press that automatically opens the door! It’s ridiculous!” He agreed and began to tell me his story. He is a stroke victim and this has caused him to lose a good deal of his mobility on his left side. Then after his stroke he got hit by a car and lost his right arm. The only extremity that works as it should is his right leg.
We talked for a good ten minutes. He really needed for someone to hear his story. I was humbled that he trusted a stranger like me with his life’s tragedies. “If I want to wear jeans, I have to leave an extra hour to get ready because I can’t zip and button the pants.” “I don’t have a home care attendant anymore. No one comes to help and take care of me.” “I’m working hard. I can’t do much but God has spared me. But I try. Do you want to see me walk?” And up he stood, walking carefully close to the wall to brace himself.
I don’t know how in the face of such challenges he can remain so positive. My challenges in comparison are small, they are real but small, and it has plunged me into depression. I live every day in fear of my future. And uncertain of it. But his eyes were bright and hopeful. He was going to walk again and be free of that chair. That he promised me.
Right after that I took my seat in the waiting room again. I opened facebook to pass the time until my therapist came out. And just as she did and said hello, I saw some terrible news. A cousin of mine, who I don’t really know but who I recently connected with on facebook died in a car crash. He married his beautiful wife just three days before. They were on their honeymoon and for some reason he swerved his SUV out of his lane and hit a bus. I found this news to be devastating. Again, I barely knew him but it’s funny how social media makes you feel closer to someone than you actually are. I watched in photographs as he made a beautiful box for his then girlfriend in which to put the ring that he proposed to her with, and as he excitedly prepared for his wedding, their beautiful wedding day and pictures from their honeymoon that were posted in real time.
You know when you see something or read something and it’s so shocking that it makes no sense? This was one of those things. And upon understanding and clarity there is fear, sadness and that feeling in your gut and hands that make you sick with confusion of life’s uncertainties.
Not long after this, there was the shooting on a college campus in Oregon where a shooter entered a classroom and killed ten people. Another national tragedy at the hands of a person with a gun. Ten families were changed forever. Ten families were whole just a few hours before and now they aren’t.
I just wanted to go home and crawl under my bed and hide from this day. At the same time I just wanted to hold my family tight and be grateful for their lives and my own.
Why does it take tragedies like this to be reminded that we have so many good things in our life? Even though we struggle, there is so much to be grateful for. I hate that it has to happen this way. That my joy and my gratitude are because of the pain and suffering of others. But grateful I am.