As a cancer survivor, one of the hardest things is the memories. Every year I attend the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. This is an event that both raises awareness and money for cancer research. At the Relay, participants walk along a school track while participating in activities.
The most powerful part of the Relay for Life is the luminary ceremony. Lining the whole length of the track are white paper bags decorated in honor of, or memory of, someone with cancer. For the ceremony a candle is placed in each and every bag, and lit. Participants walk around the track in silent remembrance.
This is always my favorite part of the night, as well as the most difficult. As I walk in silence memories assault me.
I remember the moment after my biopsy, looking at my parents, asking them the results, yet already seeing the answer in their faces. I remember my first night of chemo, lying awake throughout most of the night as my nurse Jen kept me company from myself.
I remember being so tired I could barely move. I remember showering being a full day event. I remember throwing up at nearly everything I ate. I remember waking up at 4am with a fever on Christmas day and driving to the hospital.
There are good memories, too. I remember my parents doing everything in their power for me. I remember my friends showing up to keep me company, even when I wasn’t very good company. I remember the laughs my nurses and I shared, even in the midst of chemo treatments.
I remember those who journeyed beside me, losing their own battles after fighting hard. I remember Laura Jahnke teaching me that having a reconstructed knee can actually be a good thing. I remember Ryan Shuman sharing a hospital room with me through the good times and the bad. I remember Alex Aubmets and the passion he had to see cancer destroyed forever. I remember my neighbor Karen supporting me through my battle before hers began.
I also remember those who survived their cancer while fighting beside me. I remember Steve Symons, winning the battle yet losing his leg. I remember Liz Kaiser, a lot younger than I, braving the battle with the kind of courage I admired. I remember Marcus Offerdahl only a child but also a favorite roommate of mine, facing something no one, especially not a child, should ever face.
Most of all, I remember how the Lord Jesus never let go. Through the sorrow, through the pain, through the thick and the thin, God guided me and gave me strength.
Memories are a powerful thing. They grip at us, causing pain, sorrow, grief, and any other number of emotions. We can’t let the past hold us back and cripple us, but we can’t not look back. To not look back is to forget, and we must never forget. Instead we must remember and celebrate the good times, and the lessons learned. We must take those memories and use them to give us the strength to face the future.
Memories, both good and bad, are a powerful motivator in our lives.
What memories are motivating you?