“It’s cancer.” The words no one wants to hear.
And certainly not a child or teenager. Or the parent of one. Or you or me.
Carolyn Rubenstein has gathered 20 stories from adolescents who have heard those very words. She’s chronicled their stories of pains and victories in Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors so that we also can learn from their journeys.
The stories are assorted: boys, girls, shy, outgoing, varying degrees and types of treatments, etc.
Yet the amazing thread that I saw among all the stories was this: While cancer may have been one of the worst things that ever happened to them, it was also one of the best things.
Because it taught them about living. And about dying. And about how to make the most of the time in between.
- They learned to never underestimate the power of a support system. Most brag heavily about their parents and siblings.
- They learned it’s okay to change direction midstream. Many changed college majors or took a totally different career path than originally planned.
- They learned to give back. Rubenstein relays story after story about how these young people went forward in their communities and the world in educating others not only about cancer but about loving and helping other people.
However, the lessons came with a heavy price. Isolation. Financial strain. Fears about recurrence. Relationship adjustments. “Childhood cancer doesn’t end when treatment ends; it continues to have an effect throughout children’s lives, both positive and negative.” Their lives are never the same again, and different in many ways than those of their peers.
But as they share their experiences, we can profit if we pay attention. The gifts these young people give back to the world are invaluable to help us keep a proper perspective on our own lives.
Rubenstein does an excellent job compiling stories and pictures, using her own words and the words of each survivor. She includes a chapter on “The Generosity of Others,” detailing foundations and organizations that are making a difference. She also lists helpful resources for helping kids with cancer and a medical glossary.
At the end of the book, Rubenstein lists and expounds on ten rules for living that she learned from these cancer survivors:
- Accentuate the positive
- Stay healthy
- Educate yourself
- Surround yourself with a support system
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Laugh—it really is the best medicine
- Have faith
- Celebrate life
- Never give up
- Pay it forward
Her closing thoughts include these words,
Why wait for disaster to strike or someone else to do something nice for you?
We have all been given special gifts in our lives we can use to help other people, make our lives meaningful . . .to do great and wondrous things. It only takes a few minutes each day to give a gift of your heart and leave a legacy of hope and kindness behind you.
Those are words we need to hear. And with the Lord’s help, words we can put into action.