I have learned many lessons from supporting friends and family as they battle cancer, but the most prominent one is the realization that strength and weakness are one in the same. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer I finally understood that this incredible, servant-hearted, unconditionally-loving, supportive, charismatic, woman was by far my greatest strength, but also the thought of her loss was my greatest weakness. The strongest I have seen my mother is when she has been the weakest physically and the weakest I have seen people such as myself, trying to be supportive in this situation, is when they are strongest physically. My mother was initially misdiagnosed and the doctors believed the tumor to be a more common and less threatening form of cancer. However, soon after they alerted my mom that they had miscalculated and needed to begin an intense process of chemo therapy before and after a complete stomach-removal surgery. My mom, being as strong-willed and absolutely wild as she is incredible, opted to not know what stage of cancer she had entered or exactly how much the initial diagnosis had been wrong. Because none of that mattered to her. Cancer is cancer, pain is pain, mortality is mortality, and my mom does not fear any of those things. At the time of the misdiagnosis I was a sophomore in high school and content to hid the pain and fear behind the mask of an overly optimistic first diagnosis. I lived as normally as possible and refused to define my mother by her cancer, but looking back I understand it was out of weakness not strength. Five years later and I feel the weight of my fear and how it once overshadowed the way in which I should have truly cherished my mother while she stood at the threshold of life.
However, in the midst of the chaos my mother’s incredible spirit and my focus on my mother rather than her cancer were able to foster sweet moments of normalcy. My mother’s strength and my weakness made it possible to enjoy sessions of venting in the car, watching marathons of HGTV, and making puns about stomachs as hers was being surgically removed. Cancer has an insane way of making the weak strong and the strong weak. It connects people in the most powerful, unbreakable ways while threatening to take them away simultaneously. It’s the unforgettable lesson to appreciate life’s preciousness before you’re given a reason to fear for its loss.
To my mother and the people who would stop to support her and rub her beautiful bald head, to my friends whose families have been made both weak and strong for the support of their loved ones, to the people who have once stood at that threshold or are currently there and know the value of another day, and to those who appreciate life in the face of loss I wish to ride for you. I want to ride to Alaska in the summer of 2019 because my weakness is another’s strength and another’s weakness is my strength. To ride together with my team would mean to support each other in our personal experiences with cancer while also supporting a cause much greater than all of us. To have knowledge of the past, hope for the future, and charity in the present is why I want to ride and how cancer has changed my life.