This last week of February was one of those when the waves just kept on crashing. I've been feeling lots of feelings and thinking lots of thoughts since Saturday. I've been feeling anger and fear, sadness and grief, confusion and frustration. And I've been thinking about things like battle and struggle, heroism and bravery, perseverance and hope. I've been wondering if I'll ever see the triumph in this fight that I've joined. In the end, I've arrived at today, determining that I must find a way to redefine words like courage, champion and ultimately, victory.
Saturday and Sunday the waves came in and pulled all of us who volunteer in this community under for a bit. I didn't realize it at the time, but the stomach flu jumped in on me as well and helped to pull me even further under which didn't help my mindset. Then just as I was steadying my feet from the weekend, Tuesday came and knocked me down again.
Saturday morning as my son's basketball game was winding down, I got a text from a friend informing me that a boy I had been praying for had gotten the results of the scans he had undergone earlier in the week and that the news was not good. His tumors had not disappeared. His tumors had not even stayed stable. His tumors had grown.
I hurriedly took off from the gym waving quickly to my husband and tried desperately to get to my car before the tears spilled. My husband called before I was far out of the parking lot to see what the problem was and after telling him the news, all I could squeak out was the thought that kept running through my head:
It's too much. It's too many. This is just going to keep happening.
I crawled under my covers for the rest of the next couple of days trying to recover from whatever had taken over my body and it wasn't pretty. Then news came Tuesday evening that a neighbor, a father of a boy just my boy's age, had passed after a brutal battle with cancer. Sleeping fitfully that night, I felt so much anger. I felt so much sadness. I felt fear and confusion. Though they're not enjoyable, all of those feelings are fine and appropriate for a week such as this. But shamefully, the overriding feeling of the early part of this week was the one feeling I cannot afford to feel, at least not for very long. I felt utterly and completely defeated.
Then Wednesday came with a meeting about the Diamond Dreams games. And today came with a visit to deliver blankets to children getting chemo treatments and a lunch meeting to firm up details for Casino Night. And as I looked around at the volunteers and the nurses and doctors and little children pushing their IV poles, I remembered two sentences spoken by To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch.
"Courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." and also, as important, "It's not time to worry yet."
Feelings of defeat are going to be hard to ward off in this fight. But there is no room to feel defeated. Not for long. It's not time to worry. It's not time to surrender. It's time to look at victory differently than I have in the past. The champion rarely finds the podium without having suffered some scars.
In The Fault in Our Stars , John Green writes "the marks humans leave too often are scars" and "you don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some choice in who hurts you."
These patients, these parents, these nurses, these doctors, these relentless volunteers - they are bound to leave me scarred. Anger, frustration, sadness, fear - these feelings will leave me scarred. But scars are no sign of defeat. They are signs of a life lived with purpose, with people and with love. And these people are so very worth the hurt I felt this week. As I move toward the victory. I might have to acknowledge that I might not see a cure for childhood cancer in my lifetime, but I will not feel defeated. I will redefine what victory looks like.
It looks like businesses donating hundreds and thousands of dollars to a silent auction. It looks like baseball coaches throwing their sweatshirts and caps off and putting on "business attire" for a night. (No tie required, boys.) It looks like nurses coming together to offer scholarships to the children they have cared for who make it to college. It looks like teenaged baseball and softball players dedicating a game to a cause that is greater than their win-loss record. It looks like a little curly haired girl being declared NED (no evidence of disease). It looks like a boy accepting bad news, but packing his bags to travel to another specialist in another state with a smile on his face and hope in his heart. It looks like "our" one and only Kyle, of Kyle's Kamp, looking strong and healthy as he gets his port taken out at the end of a three year course of treatment for leukemia.
Though children will leave and parents will grieve and our hearts will bear the marks of this difficult battle, I will still look for small victories because I know that victories do not always appear the way my culture tells me they should. My very faith testifies to me that scars are in no way indicative of defeat.
I remember the God to whom I have given my work and my life. I remember the ultimate victor, the One who conquered all the world with humility and love and forgiveness. He had scars on His hands and a slash in His side. Though broken and bleeding and bruised, there was no greater champion for humanity. He did not claim victory with a shiny gold crown and flowing, elaborate robes. He conquered the world covered with sweat and tears and blood. And He won the victory for me.
There will be a victory for me and for all of those whom I love and for all of those whom I will meet on this journey. It will come at the end of a hard fought battle. It will come with scars. But it will come.
To join Kyle's Kamp as we move toward the victory, please check out our links for Casino Night, Diamond Dreams and the Memorial Day Tournament above.
And while you do that you can listen to my very favorite song about victory right here and send up a prayer for our friend, Mathias. Fight on, buddy.
Jennifer P. Skinner