Great heroism sometimes lies in trying 1 next step along the spiral

Heather Jose

Heather Jose

MY AMAZING AUNT is in the midst of her cancer treatment. She still has radiation treatments and another chemo to get through. It is tough right now—as millions of families know.

Side effects strike hard. Mouth sores have overtaken and the pain is intense. The doctors are pleased, but that doesn’t make each day any easier. When I got the latest update I remembered the quote on a card that was sent to me when I was in the toughest part of my own treatment:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,’I will try again tomorrow.'”
Mary Anne Rademacher

Mary Anne is the author of books with titles like Life Begins When You Do, Celebrating the Power of Friendship and Courage Doesn’t Always Roar. Just reading her titles provides the message we all need: When we are caught in the spiral of such intense treatment—and millions of us have been there—sometimes the greatest heroism lies in simply trying to take the next step. Trying.

Ancient spiral staircase, photographed by Ines Saraiva and released via Wikimedia Commons.

Ancient staircase, photographed by Ines Saraiva shared via Wikimedia Commons.

Treatment, like life, has phases. And while I fully embrace killing cancer everyday—that overall goal is right there in the defiant title of my own memoir—you need to know that in some phases of cancer treatment that battle is a lot more humbling. I had days when killing cancer simply meant standing for short periods or even just giving in to sleep. There were times when attempting food once in the course of the day meant I was trying—and in trying I was succeeding for that day.

Each person’s journey is different, but my tips to my aunt begin with: Right now, you’re a hero with each new day that dawns in your life.

Like a lot of us, at first, my aunt thought she would tough it out and avoid some of the strong drugs her doctors offered to deal with side effects. My advice: Take the meds rather than toughing it out. Sleep as much as possible, since the waking hours are no fun right now! Trust that your body is surviving. Trust that each day’s step is heading the right way along the spiral.

My advice to her equally amazing husband is: Encourage her to eat, but not to make that the only conversation in the house, to talk to her about things they have always enjoyed discussing, and to recognize that sometimes holding a hand is the greatest comfort there is.

I encourage both of them to look forward to spring, as this one will bring new life like no other, to know that they will look back on this time as a dark time but the point is—they will be able to look back. Above all: Be gentle with each other.

Do you have advice for folks going through such struggles?
What has gotten you through the tough times?

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