An Inspiration

I knew it was bound to happen. I even pondered it beforehand, knowing it would be coming. When I joined the Women Surviving Cancer support group I was aware that there would be women in all stages of the cancer journey. Some, like me, would be survivors who have passed the five year mark. Others would be in the midst of their journey to healing, and still others near the end of theirs. The chance that one of the women I have come to know would die at some point was 100%. I knew this fact going in, yet I chose to become a part of the group anyway because it is a place of inspiration and encouragement.
Now, the day I knew was coming has arrived. Jackie Royal, one of the members of our group, died this week. I have to tell you that I didn’t know Jackie well, as I am still fairly new to the group. She was only there one of the times I have been, and that was to announce she was going into hospice. It took her a good fifteen minutes, a walker, and her caregiver just to get her from the car to the meeting room. She shared her story to an extremely respectful and attentive group. As she told of her journey, even though she was riddled with disease, she glowed. Truly. A woman of great faith, she had confidence that she would soon meet the Lord she had known intimately for years. She was expectant and oh so peaceful. It was a powerful testimony and a sacred moment. I did not sense any fear in the room. None. The reality cancer patients live with is that there is more than one kind of healing. One in which you get more time here and now, another where you are healed and free forever. Either is acceptable in Cancerland. There is no judgment, or pity, only reverence for the reality. Compassion for the condition.
It is a sisterhood in the truest sense, this group that I have found. A bond that can be understood without words. Eyes that speak more than a voice ever could. It is born out of shared experience, common pain. Yet the joy is also collective, the courage contagious. Jackie was a brave woman as she entered into her last days. To outsiders the whole discussion may seem morbid, or depressing, but to the sisters it is not. It is uplifting to see such hope in a face gaunt and translucent with illness.
The secret is in the eyes. While the body withers away, the eyes remain the window to the soul. Jackie had sparkle in her eyes that made her childlike, mischievous even. She was NOT in any way beaten down. In fact, quite the opposite, she was relieved to know the fight was coming to an end. She was radiant. Her beauty could not be stolen by sickness. This is the message of her faith-filled life: when you know the Lord, either way you win. Here or in his presence. Win win.
I believe in fighting for life. Jackie did that…for a long time. I thank God that she is finished fighting. This group of warriors gets that. We support each woman in the place she is walking. There is much laughter and hope at our meetings. Strength found in weakness is like a fragrance hovering over the room. It is a safe place no matter what part of the journey you are on. We will lose other members of our group in the not too distant future, that is a given. Others will come in with the glorious words “cancer free” rolling off their smiling lips. Both kinds of results will be celebrated, as will the women who face them.
If you are in or have been to Cancerland, you are welcome to attend. We meet at First United Methodist Church on Thomson Bridge Road in Gainesville. Meeting starts at 11:00 every third Saturday, lunch is at 12:00. The next meeting is Saturday Jan. 19th.

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