Capes are Optional Part I
I have encountered cancer twice. I would not refer to myself as a hero, nor would anyone of the people whose stories are included here. As we find our way through a health crisis of such magnitude we need heroes, and equally we need to not feel we are alone. My friend Dee Yoh inspired me to write my story, which is included in this book. Dee’s story and her husband’s story, are both included in this anthology. Dee was my hero because she faced her fears, kept working with the lessons that appeared, and she was brutally honest about her process. Since then there have been many people who have inspired me and touched me with their stories of heroism. No one facing this illness, or the grief of losing a loved one, needs to face cancer alone. We are a tribe, and until this plague is curtailed, we will strew bread crumbs for others of our tribe to find and follow.
Sharing stories about heroism has been a factor of human existence for millennia. There have always been people who became superheroes, literally larger than life. Joseph Campbell states that in a myth a hero battles supernatural forces and returns home “from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons upon his fellow man.” In fairy tales, for instance, we have the girl who faced Baba Yaga, or the Seven Swans sister. The girl who faced Baba Yaga the witch was able through kindness, courage and cleverness to save herself from being eaten, and then awakens her father to the truth of her evil stepmother. The Seven Swan’s sister persevered in her mission to save her brothers. Neither one would have claimed heroism. But the trauma, chance, and destiny they encountered produced that option. Through our facing our cancer in a heroic fashion we inspire others to see hope and show others that there is always more to life. On the road to recovery, we can offer those around us encouragement to face their own relentless inner demons, by sharing the lessons we have learned.
Today it is common to refer to those of our tribe as cancer “warriors”. We who have already dealt with cancer, we who are still dealing with cancer and we who have loved ones who have faced cancer, we are all the Cancer Tribe. Our struggle to awaken to heroism is sometimes life threatening, often painful, and frequently goes on for much longer than we wish. We go through three types of life-altering experiences, often all at once: trauma, destiny and chance.
Being told you or a loved one, has cancer can be one of the most traumatic things we can experience today. We may not fight in the wars in the Middle East or on the streets of urban ghettoes; the wars we fight instead are within our bodies. The prevalence of cancer has caused many of us to feel like cancer is a plague we have to fight, or succumb to and die. There is a middle way many of us have found. That middle way is to accept cancer as our teacher and learn everything we can. When we accept the unacceptable, we truly face our own demons. In facing our demons we become heroes whether we consciously choose to or not. We may not see ourselves as heroes, but often through the eyes of others we discover our heroism.