When I meet acquaintances these days who have been unaware of my battle with cancer over the past six months, I find myself describing that period of time as the most difficult, the hardest challenge of my entire life. True enough. But what sometimes doesn't get said is that it has also been a period of rediscovery of the lifelines which make my life worthwhile.
In the past few days alone, for instance, I have been on the receiving end of gestures of kindness from family and friends that remind me I am loved. That doesn't mean I feel worthy. It just means that my life is only sensible as part of a web of relationships.
My parents, for instance, have been phenomenal, helping me in a variety of ways, the most important of which is simply listening to my concerns, offering advice, and visiting me when the can. Friends have brought plants, CDs, books, and dropped by the house for quick visits just to let me know they care and want to stay up to date on my recovery. My wife and sons continue to make daily life bearable. In fact, my wife has been at my side, preparing meals, checking on my condition, reviewing medical appointments and confirming medication for over 2 months now without complaint. My sons help with many household tasks that would otherwise be my responsibility. They also continue with their own lives, doing exactly what teenage boys should be doing at this time in their lives. I think they implicitly understand that I wouldn't have it otherwise. If they stopped their normal activities just to be at my beck and call 24x7, it would bother me.
I was able to go to the early service at church today, re-establishing another set of lifelines. Just to sing some hymns, shake hands and embrace friends, take the eucharist alongside my fellow parishioners, and talk briefly to as many as possible after the service - it was worth the discomfort and weariness I had for the rest of the morning.
Now, this coming week, I must get ready for my wife returning to work. This means I'll have to start preparing some of my meals and otherwise taking care of myself. Don't get me wrong. I am pleased my wife will be able to see colleagues and do her work again. I am also pleased that I am well enough to start taking care of myself to some extent. It means that, as long as chemotherapy doesn't lay me low, I may be able to anticipate doing useful work again. I don't yet know when that will happen, but at least it is now in the field of possibilities. Work, of course, is yet another lifeline.