In case you haven’t noticed, I love quotes. Whenever I read, whether it’s a book, a magazine, a newspaper article, or a blog, I have a journal next to me to copy anything meaningful that captures my attention. In fact, I have 3 journals right now that I am filling full of quotes. One is full of Scripture and words from great men and women of faith, another is full of sentences or paragraphs from books I am reading, and a third is my musings on life through the eyes of others–great authors, poets, orators, etc. (Yes, I really am a freak of nature.) This morning, I reread the words of Walt Whitman that I had written years ago in a different journal. His words struck me.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road. Healthy, free, the world before me, the long brown path before me leading me wherever I choose.
When I say his words struck me, I mean they hit me like I had been bashed in between the eyes with a baseball bat. It was like all the air left my lungs and I struggled to breathe. Did I truly enter that into one of my journals? Was there really a time when I felt light-hearted and ready to take to the open road? I began to get angry. Angry with good ol’ Walt. Angry with myself. Angry with cancer. I felt robbed of my choice to follow that carefree open road.
I have no alternative when it comes to this blight. I try to manage through the days following my chemo only to find there is no managing. There is no moving. Not without pain. It has been 4 hours since I took my last pain pill, and it’s effects have diminished. I ache in every joint and muscle of my body, yet I have to wait 2 more hours before I can take another pill and find relief from the pain. I took one of my many anti-nausea meds 30 minutes ago, and I find the squeamishness rising in my stomach again. I try to sleep, but it’s sweet refreshment doesn’t come.
I have no choice when it comes to my cancer. I don’t even get to schedule when I will have my treatments, as each week my treatment team fills in my appointments for me. There is no option. There is no, “What is a good time for you to come in for lab work?” They hand me my paper for the next week and I come when they tell me, and I allow them to put poison into my veins to kill off this curse which has invaded my body. I have been robbed of so many choices.
I’ve heard it said, “I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.” And while I have been stripped of Walt’s carefree open road, I haven’t been divested of everything. In the midst of this struggle I do have choices… I can choose to be a victim, or I can choose to fight. I can choose to wallow in self-pity, or I can choose to pray for others. I can choose to anguish about all the “what if’s…?” or I can count my blessings and be thankful. I can choose to fret over the time I miss with my children, or I can capture the minutes with them when I feel well. I can choose to look at myself and my struggle, or I can choose to look at the cross and Christ.
I have an abundance of choices. I can choose to look ahead in expectation and hope for health and freedom and that long brown path to walk down again. That road will never be carefree, but I can be light-hearted again as I look forward and envision time with my family, friends and loved ones. My future is bright, even if the days now are dark. Because my future holds an open road that leads to Heaven, and that is the road I have chosen.