Bring It On, Cancer - I Am David to Your Goliath

"Winning." "Losing.""A battle." The competitive verbiage and military jargon worked for me when I had cancer. But when my dad and mom received stage 4 diagnoses, I struggled to describe their narrative with the same vocabulary. Saying they were losing the fight didn't sit right with me.

An email from Alan, a friend and fellow cancer survivor, helped me find a way to approach the verbiage we use after diagnosis. His signature is this: Bring it on cancer, I am David to your Goliath.

Talk about fighting words.

I thought I was familiar with the Sunday school story of the shepherd boy who picked up five smooth stones to fight the giant, but re-reading the text revealed other details. Goliath stood 9 feet and 9 inches tall, sporting a bronze helmet and armor that weighed 125 pounds. Or, as I saw it, Goliath was one gnarly green army man and David basically had five marbles in his pocket.

Alan first faced the giant twenty-seven years ago. His Goliath came as a diagnosis of metastatic, stage 4, diffuse, large cell, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma that started in his spinal canal, fractured his spine in two places, destroyed a disc, and then spread into his chest and spleen. He underwent chemo and radiation to his spine. He spent almost twenty-three hours a day in bed for nearly a year waiting for his spine to heal. When he was out of bed he wore a steel brace to help avoid the potential of becoming a paraplegic if he even sneezed too hard.

That cancer went into remission. In 2012, after being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, Alan began five chemo treatments a month--a regime he will follow for the rest of his life in the hopes of keeping leukemia at bay. He has completed 235 chemo treatments, to date. In 2014, Alan was diagnosed with a third cancer – squamous cell carcinoma.

That's where the rest of Alan's signature also caught my eye:

"Cancer may have robbed me of that blissful ignorance that once led me to believe that tomorrow stretched forever. In exchange I have been granted the wisdom to see each today as something special, a gift to be used wisely and fully. Nothing can take that away."
Alan's cancer has definitely been Goliath in its proportions. But it's also always going to be a fight for him--at least, that's how it looks right now. That made me think that as soon as we are diagnosed, the only definitive thing we can agree on in our community is that we are fighters. Whatever happens during or after treatment, our lives are forever changed in a way that will have us actively working to suppress radical cells in our own bodies into submission.

Alan has collected five smooth stones to fight the giant that you might find of use in your battle:

  • A stone of gratitude
  • A stone of accepting mortality
  • A stone of wisdom
  • A stone of purpose
  • A stone of joy for the gift of each day

Cancer can be one nasty bugger, rising to 9 feet and 9 inch proportions. Alan's email signature helped me to see that the fight is what we all have in common when we square up with cancer. It is okay to use everything in your arsenal to fight the giant with an aim toward winning the war, but it is also important to stoop low and pick up five smooth stones and celebrate the gift of life each day.

What are your “five stones” to fighting Cancer the Goliath? Tell us in the comments below!