I spent some time recently visiting my mother who is battling cancer for the second time. She has Multiple Myeloma which is cancer of the blood plasma cells within the bone marrow. It is an incurable cancer which means that chemotherapy and other treatments can force it into remission but in most cases it comes back after 3-5 years of remission and you begin your fight again. Over time all of the treatments and the Myeloma eventually lead to dissolving of the bones, weakened immunity and difficulty fighting infections.
While I would never say that anything associated with cancer is easy, I will say that I found it easier to help my mom stay motivated and hopeful the first time around. The first time around, when she was first diagnosed and went through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, she stayed in the fight. She stayed hopeful and ready to win and get back to living life. She fearlessly downed handfuls of medication and hooked up weekly to various IV concoctions which promised to save her life. After her stem cell transplant; after the dramatic weight and hair loss; I watched new life begin. Her hair grew back, she no longer required thyroid and blood pressure medications. It was as if someone had hit the reset button on her life and for the first time since I’ve known her, she dove headfirst into living. She opened up to trying new experiences and living with full appreciation of the gift of life. It was remarkable to watch.
Here we are 4 year later, she is now 73 and the cancer is back. This second time around is proving to be much more emotional and much harder to keep her spirits up. One morning, on my recent visit to Missouri, over early morning coffee, she tells me that she just doesn’t see the point of going through with the treatment anymore knowing that she’ll likely have to do it again, later down the road, if pneumonia doesn’t take her first and that she just didn’t know if she can continue. I could see the defeat in her eyes and felt a darkened energy fall over the room. I honestly didn’t know what to say. What she was saying, wasn’t wrong. In all likelihood, if she reaches remission again, the cancer will be back at some point down the road. How do you help someone find the hope they need to keep going?
In that moment, I felt useless to say or do anything that would help boost her spirits and get her back in the fight. I wanted so badly to say something helpful but I had nothing. I wanted so badly to be her rock but I scanned my brain for something motivational and inspiring to say and came up empty. Instead I gave her a hug, told her that I loved her and hoped she would continue her treatment because I still desperately needed my Mama and then I went out for a walk. As I was walking, I received an email from a friend. My friend’s email said, “ I saw this and thought of you.” She sent me the following quote, “Sometimes the strength within you is not a big fiery flame for all to see, it is just a tiny spark that whispers ever so softly, ‘you got this. Keep going’.”
It was exactly the words I needed to hear; exactly the words I needed to share with my mother and exactly the words I need to share with you and anyone who is struggling to face overwhelming challenges. The strength we need is within each one of us. It may not always be big and fiery. It may not always be enough to move the mountain from our path but it could be just the right amount we need in the moment…a spark, a whisper of courage, that keeps us moving and helps us go around or over or through the mountain.
When I returned from my walk, I shared the words with my mother. That tiny spark of encouragement was just the right amount she needed to keep going. She continues her cancer fight today (and most Thursdays) with another chemotherapy treatment. I wish I could bottle up all my inner strength and courage and share it in one of her IV bags. Of course, I can’t do that so I do what I can. I share inspiring words (when they come to me), I give her hugs (a virtual one, today) and hope that my little whispers of strength will be just the right amount to keep her going.