I was recently given the honor of cutting the ribbon to begin the “survivor lap” at our local Relay For Life. It was a very moving experience, and one I will not easily forget. I took my place between the purple ribbon and the other cancer survivors. Men, women, old and young, we were bound together by the common thread of cancer. The large shiny ribbon that stretched across the track reminded me of wrapped presents and special occasions. I wasn’t sure what feelings might come to me when it was time to cut the ribbon. However, similar to the anticipation one experiences before opening a special gift, I felt excited and knew it was going to be a special experience. One by one, these feelings came forth…
I felt a profound sense of respect and camaraderie for those around me. While each person’s cancer journey is truly unique, there is also commonality to the experience. To experience cancer is to endure physical as well as emotional hardship, and the journey encourages one to dig deep into ones soul to find inner strength. Having cancer is difficult and is inevitably life changing. I stood among individuals who had experienced the trauma of having had cancer, and who had weathered the hardships of cancer treatments. Each person was a hero in my book.
I was overwhelmed with humility and gratitude. We were survivors. We were granted the gift of life. It is tempting to think that one survives cancer because of a positive mental attitude or a healthy lifestyle, but truthfully, there is not a good reason why some are fortunate and others not. Many healthy, vibrant and wonderful people are struck down by cancer every day. I stood among those who had survived; I was honored to be among them, and I was thankful.
When the moment came to cut the ribbon though, I experienced what ultimately was the most powerful feeling I experienced that day. It bubbled up inside me, light and happy: Joy! We were survivors, and we were celebrating! Cutting the ribbon symbolically opened the gift I felt within, a gift cancer often bestows upon survivors and their loved ones: profound and joyous, the appreciation of being alive.