Not long ago, I read something by Roger Ebert, a skilled and insightful movie critic who has battled thyroid cancer and related conditions for a long time now, in which Ebert said roughly this: Cancer patients are widely seen as courageous. Presumably some are, but for most of us, the virtues others ascribe to us are not merited. The truth is, patients who live with advanced stage cancers have little choice in what we face; for most of us, life consists of putting one foot in front of the other, doing what you have to do and along the way, preserving and treasuring whatever small slices of normality you can. Like Ebert, I don't see much virtue in that. I've always been more cowardly than courageous, and I don't think my illness has changed that state of affairs. If anything, the opposite: I had several extended hospitalizations as a kid, and those seemed easier to me than the ones I've had recently.
Much to my surprise, what I've found instead is that my illness has revealed the virtues of my friends and my family. I know that spouses and children, parents and siblings are supposed to and usually do love one another. Still, I've gotten far more than my share of that love over the past seven months, even (maybe especially) on the many days when I've been irritable and worse. More surprising still, those months have seen a host of friends, including more than a few I didn't know I had, coming out of the woodwork--offering blessing and support, assistance and encouragement, precisely as those things have been needed, all without my lifting a finger to ask for them.