At the end of this week I will be halfway through my radiation treatments. I wish I could say they’ve been easy, but the reality is, I’ve been dealing with a new set of side effects since starting treatments. They warned me that I would be dealing with more fatigue, and sure enough, I sometimes feel like I don’t have energy to brush my teeth let alone any other simple task. The worst is tummy upsets though. I hardly know what to eat because it seems just about everything disagrees with me. Unfortunately, it is a side effect that may last awhile even after treatments are done. *sigh*
Still, if I compare these radiation side effects with chemo, these are far more preferable. 😁
Last Friday, I had to wait for my treatment, and I struck up a good conversation with a lady who was battling breast cancer. She had just finished four rounds of chemo and was just starting her sixteen radiation treatments. She showed me pictures of her grandchildren and said, “They are my reason for fighting so hard.” I know what she means. I have hundreds of pictures on my iPhone of my kids and grandbabies, and when I am having a challenging day, I scroll through them, and think of the memories yet to be made with each of my loved ones. Cancer survivors and those living with cancer have families and friends who are cheering them on. Loved ones may not fully grasp what we are going through, but their support uplifts us. I never forget about my “cheering section” and thank God for them every day!
As we continued talking and commiserating about our cancer journeys, sharing the similarities and differences, we both admitted to the emotional toll cancer and the subsequent treatments have taken out on us. Only those who have fought the battle can truly understand what it’s like on the battle field. I have discovered over these many years that there is a camaraderie that develops between even total strangers based on shared experience. Though everyone’s battle with cancer is uniquely their own, we can encourage each other because we have shared enough commonalities with the disease to be able to relate to one another.
As I watched the Remembrance Day services on T.V. on November 11th, several veterans were interviewed and a few tried to relate their wartime experience to the young reporters. “You had to be there!” Declared a ninety-five year old WW2 veteran with a raspy voice, as he wiped a tear from his eye. It’s true. We may hear the stories, but we will never fully comprehend what these brave men and women faced, because we did not personally experience what they experienced. It is important we hear the stories just the same, because it is important for them to tell their story, as much as it’s important for us to hear them. Stories have such an impact and brings both the teller and the listener closer to understanding one another.
Jesus knew the importance of storytelling. It was an integral part of His earthly ministry. Whenever Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” He was calling for people to pay careful attention. Jesus spoke in parables, telling stories the people could relate to even if they may not have had a personal connection to, or experience with. Their understanding of the parable was not always determined by personal experience, but whether or not they were willing to listen and hear the meaning and intent of the story.
I will admit, there have been times I have blocked out listening to the stories of those who just want someone to hear them. I have been distracted by my own circumstances, not wanting to get involved. I have even purposefully avoided talking to people because their story would make me too uncomfortable to hear it. Sometimes, I have avoided telling my story, because the remembrance of some of it is just to painful to relive. I have learned there is healing in the telling, and in the listening to another’s journey. It is intimidating to share sometimes, but God does not want us to remain silent if He has allowed us to go through something with the intention to share the experience with others for His purposes. He would not want us to avoid listening either, if we have an opportunity to hear and learn from their experience. It allows us a better insight into their life journeys and allows us to lend support to them as well.
In the next few weeks left of my radiation treatments, I will likely have more opportunities to strike up conversations with fellow cancer sojourners. Pray that I will compassionately listen to them; I will have the boldness to share my faith with them, and that they in turn will have “ears to listen” to my story as well.