I think one of the hardest parts of Tate’s diagnosis, and dealing with the health care system, has been maintaining a feeling of hope. Tate’s heard about the difficulties and side effects of chemo. Of radiation. We’ve heard statistics that are frightening. And while nobody has given him a long-term prognosis, not hearing that is just as frightening as listening to bad news.
I’m a nurse and I know that health care professionals are all taught not to ever give false hope. We don’t want to make promises that we can’t keep. But giving hope doesn’t mean giving false hope. False hope is based on a fantasy, a dream. That doesn’t mean that hope isn’t out there. Without something to hold on to, it’s very difficult to face the next day.
Last night, Tate and I went to a support group run by Bernie Siegel. He’s a retired surgeon who has worked for over 30 years with cancer patients, as well as others with life-changing illnesses, to think positively and remain hopeful. Bernie believes in the power of positive thought, the power of laughter and the power of love. It’s almost impossible to be in his presence and not feel the strength of that power.
Tate was the only man (other than Bernie and his son) who was at the meeting. No surprise there! So Bernie started by asking Tate about his feelings about his cancer. When asked what color his chemotherapy would be Tate said it was green. Bernie’s face broke into a huge smile, and he said “green’s the color of life. That’s good. That’s really good.”
There was a woman at the meeting who is friendly with some of Tate’s friends. She shared that she heard about his diagnosis from those mutual friends, and that the love those friends had for Tate was palpable. She talked about how loveable Tate is and how valued he is by those in his life. It brought me to tears, and it helped Tate talk about how he has been trying to learn to appreciate his right to be loved for a long time. Which brought him to tears.
The entire evening was filled with a sense of hope. And hope is something we left with. Laughter is abundant in Tate’s life. If nothing else, Tessa and Elijah are a constant source of laughter and joy. And the rest of his community is as loving and supportive as anyone could hope for.
As Tate would say, “We’re gonna slap that rascal.” Not just slap it, but win.
With love and hope,