Not a Survivor - a Hero
(from CaringBridge 2018)
As a writer, I know that WORDS MATTER. As a student of the Gospel, I know that 'as we speak on earth' so it is with the source of Power. So I ask your help to find those words, concepts, visualizations and metaphors which speak to health, rise to successful outcomes, hold to the joy and peace in the midst of trial and hard-work, that describe the steps and climbs on the journey to wholeness, that honor the amazing intelligence and training of my team, and most of all recognizes the faith of all who are supporting me.
What language can we use to replace the "battle" metaphor?
You guys are the ones holding my arms up.
A few have noticed my language as I have talked about the cancer, my interaction with it and the surgery. I have been very precise, I think, avoiding any "war" or "victim" language. I am being careful NOT to frame cancer as happening TO ME but rather happening IN ME. I'm sick, yes, but I choose not to be "at war" with the disease, but rather be IN HARMONY with healing in my body. I don't want 'winners and losers' because it's all ME.
I don't want to be just a "cancer survivor" but, rather, I intend to be a "liver hero". I'm on a healing journey to surmount the illness of liver cancer.
Possibly the oldest trope in storytelling is The Hero's Journey. All the best stories, from Homer to Frodo Baggins, go like this: An ordinary guy is just living his life until one day something extraordinary and usually devastating changes everything. Willing or not, he leaves his ordinary live to embark on an adventure fraught with danger, tests, challenges, pain and setbacks -- against seemingly insurmountable odds. Along the way, the hero discovers his many weaknesses, both physical and mental, and is challenged morally to his/her core. The hero also learns that the job which must be done cannot be completed alone. The hero finds others willing to help and sacrifice alongside of him; those able to metaphorically or actually lift his arms at the critical moment. Ultimately, with supreme effort -- with potentially life and death consequences -- the hero completes the task, reaches the goal and wins the prize. Then, with the help of his new friends, the hero -- changed, often wounded -- returns to his life a reborn person.
And my journey so far feels just like the trope defines - truly EVERYTHING CHANGED on August 31st. I know I am just finding the secret cave, covered in cobwebs. I see a lot of weird and scary lights, I have to learn a new language. I am learning there will be some yucky swamps to ford, some steep mountains to climb and big, ugly spiders to confront.
I also know that there will be knives and blood (oh, I really hate knives and blood) -- even ray guns and magic wands. But I want to recognize these things as tools and not weapons. I also anticipate I will be wounded, parts of me will go missing. This is critical to the hero's journey, the pain and loss are absolutely necessary to reach the end. Part of that loss is that the hero must confront and embrace that he may not make it - he may not succeed. And yet, AND YET he pushes onward to Mordor anyway. Even past the point of despair.
So I plan to be a Healing Hero, not just a survivor. If I am going to succeed in grasping the laurel wreath, if I overcome Sauron, then I will walk out a hero. I have no doubt I will be changed at the other end.