No, I don’t have it. Nor does anyone in my immediate family (as I knock on wood) have it. So I consider myself one of the lucky ones. But I have had more “meet-ups” with cancer in my life in the last few years than I care to add up. Yes, I’m getting older. I’m in my 40s, and I realize meet-ups with cancer will occur more and more often as people around me get older. But my first two meet-ups were with a four-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. And those meet-ups alone changed my life forever.
Both children belonged to our preschool. The girl was my son’s classmate. Her dad is a real-life rock star who travels with his band, and has friends, literally, all over the world. I saw our small circle of mutual friends band together in support of this family, but was also amazed through social media of the power and magnitude of a community that can pray, together yet from different states, countries and continents. Three years later, I’m still enamored with this miracle girl, and the humility of this family who are truly grateful for the ties that bind their community. And who give back to the community because of it.
Even closer to me is the little boy, now, thankfully, in his third year of maintenance and nearly finished with chemo treatments. My family was actually vacationing with his when they heard the devastating news no one wants to hear. And though we saw first-hand the pain and agony this horrific disease can put on a dear little boy, again, I was amazed by the community. I knew I lived in a great neighborhood, but I had no idea how great until this happened. My church prayed vigilantly, fellow church members who were survivors and our pastor offered support to this family they didn’t even know. I reached out to fellow parents – some which knew the family and some that did not. And within a day, I raised money for a small freezer to sit on the family’s porch so they could accept meals without having to accept visitors during this tough time. The next year, friends channeled this support into a cause and formed the non-corporate team to raise the most money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s 2012 Light the Night Walk. Amazing what a silver lining this community created around a very big cloud.
A couple years later, a man in the neighborhood – again – the dad of a preschool classmate of my son – lost his battle with cancer. He was close to my age. My husband’s age. And the age of all our friends. Though I barely knew him, it was devastating to contemplate what his wife and children were, and still are, going through. But again, our community came together. His family’s friends in our neighborhood joined with friends that came in from all over the country to build a tree house. They raised the money for materials and built a beautiful tree house and planted a garden for his little girls. It was the tree house that love built, because it was his dying wish. All in a matter of days. Because it’s what he wanted. And because everyone knew it would make the girls smile.
Community is the reason why the meet-ups with cancer don’t kill us all. Yes, sadly and extremely painfully, cancer takes some of us with it. But for those of us it leaves behind, well, it's community that makes us stronger.