I was walking down our cold, iced-over city sidewalk the other day when a man dressed in sweat clothes popped out of his house calling my name. I stopped, squinted my eyes, and begged my mind to recognize his name that I once knew. I had met him several months ago at a fundraiser, and even though we spoke only a few words to each other that day, I was immediately impressed by his generosity and vitality.
My neighbor confirmed that my memory, or at least that part of it that guessed his name, remained intact. However, I could tell by his taut face and furrowed brow that something urgent and horrible had happened. My neighbor didn’t waste any time with social niceties; he quickly revealed to me the hard truth that he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He went on to explain that the reason he had stopped me was that he had just begun reading my book in a desperate attempt to find something that could help him.
I immediately gave him one of the most important medicines that there is for someone facing cancer–hope. Most cancer patients are completely overwhelmed with a barrage of difficult emotions when they are first diagnosed. The word “cancer” is often synonymous with “death.” Everyone knows of someone who has had cancer; most know of someone who has died from it.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I begged my oncologists to give me hope, yet they refused. Granted, I did have a rare and aggressive cancer, with no known treatment. However, there was absolutely no excuse for withholding a candle that could have helped me through the darkness. Researchers have long ago concluded that hope can have therapeutic effects, and I am convinced that without it I would be dead. Fortunately, I was able to receive a big dose of hope from Katherine, family, and friends.
Finding out that you have cancer is like opening Pandora’s box: all the evil nightmares fly out of the box and attack you. Like Pandora before you, you can and must discover that hope, however small, still remains in the box. My neighbor saw me, a 10-year survivor of terminal cancer, as an embodiment of hope. I told him truth. I survived, and there was hope that he could, too! The truth of the matter is that there is hope for pancreatic cancer patients, and everyone diagnosed with the disease.