Fighting cancer cannot be easy. I’ve never had to do it, but I’ve watched my now thirteen year old son battle the disease for three and a half years. He’s been an amazing warrior. He’s fought cancer the same way he’s always played baseball: all or nothing!
I’ve watched as the harsh regimen of chemotherapy have raved his mind and body. I’ve seen the fog of “chemo brain” and the frustration caused by steroids. I’ve seen his throw up for hours on end to the point of burst blood vessels in his eyes. Most recently I’ve watched him labor even to walk because of the effects of one drug in particular, Vincristine, on his knees and ankles. He is tired all the time and never free from pain. It’s awful to watch.
But recently he reminded me of a very important part of any struggle: knowing when to stop and take a deep breath.
I was watching Harrison and his baseball team in the batting cage several weeks ago at tryouts. It was a Thursday afternoon, two days after his last spinal tap and chemo infusion. He was sick, weakened by the drugs, and in obvious pain.
Harrison did what he’s been coached to do for the first 5 or 6 pitches–hit the ball up the middle or back side. He knows not to lunge after the ball just to pull it into the net. It may look good in the cage but doesn’t translate into good hitting.
But he then fouled off 5 or 6 in a row. His body just wouldn’t respond like the first few pitches. I wondered what he would do, and whispered to myself, “Take a few pitches to rest.”
I watched as he gathered himself, took a deep breath, and watched the next two or three pitches go by while he gathered himself.
He finished the round with five more hits back up the middle.
Probably no one knew he’d had a spinal tap two days prior and could barely walk, much less swing a bat. No one knew how much pain he was in just getting into the cage, much less facing rapid-fire throwing from a varsity coach. But he knew. And when the pain got to be too much, he stopped for just a moment. He didn’t let the situation get the most of him.
Wednesday, April 1, Harrison will have his final chemo infusion. [I can’t write that without smiling]
It will be a time of incredible celebration. A milestone. He survived the infusion of toxic chemicals into his young, growing body. He survived a stroke caused by the treatment meant to save him. He survived life-threatening infections.
While his body has been left broken, battered, and scarred from the battle, he’s survived.
And the biggest lesson from his survival: sometimes you just need to stop and take a deep breath, then swing for the fence.