“Only after you are broken, can you know what you are made of”
How did the Thailand Wild Boars soccer team survive for 17 long days in a damp, dark cave. They had no idea whether they would be saved. They had no idea how long it would be until someone noticed they were even missing. How is it that they did not just throw in the towel?
It would seem that many are attributing their survival before their rescue to their coach. A former monk, he taught the boys how to meditate. Not only did this help to lower their need for oxygen – in an atmosphere that was oxygen deprived, but it also helped them to remain mentally calm. Reports suggest they were meditating when the British scuba diver(s) found the boys.
The boys could not swim, they could not dive. The path in front of them was down-right perilous. The cave was pitch black. The waters were turbulent and resembled coffee with cream. The team was weak from lack of food, water, and potential infections. If that doesn’t constitute a break, I’m not sure what does.
“Stacey, do you relate to this story at all?” asked my friend Sandra of me this morning? “Did you feel like you were in a cave when you were first diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian cancer?” Now, there was an interested parallel in which I could sink my teeth.
That was a good question. But I had a pretty quick answer. “Yes. yes, I do relate.” My diagnosis threw me into a cave of sorts. I was lost, in the dark. I didn’t know when or where help would arrive. I was cold, numb. I did almost everything I wasn’t supposed to do: panic, read about my illness on the internet…. you know the story. I couldn’t believe the world slept while I was wide awake in the middle of the night. I was dying. How could people sleep? I felt almost trapped in my own body – all I wanted was for someone to cut the cancer out of me! I had to learn patience. I had to learn to not panic. I had to learn to accept my reality without losing hope. Yes – I could related to those boys.
My oncologist, my surgeon, my family and friends taught me how to meditate per se. I received medical care swiftly and, although, there were no guarantees, I felt that I had partners in my health care and that these partners were much more capable of saving me at that moment than I was of saving myself. I had no choice but to turn my life over to them. Like the cave divers, however, my doctors were sort of navigating in an arena where there were no clear answers. They could not guarantee they could save me – and time was ticking. I went through chemo – surgery – more chemo. Then more chemo. I lost my hair three times. When it seemed the chemo could no longer shrink my tumors, I met with doctors from Toronto General who told me about two more options: immunotherapy and a freshly approved drug: Lynparza (Olaparib). Either choice was risky as neither one was really clear in terms of whether it would “save” me/ prolong my life. Both were “shot in the dark” solutions.
I chose. My family and I chose. My doctors and I chose. We chose to go the Lynparza route.
Like the boys being extracted out of the cave, my treatment too was perilous. It was scary. I counted on the advice and expertise of others. I gave myself to medicine.
I was “rescued”. To date, I have been in a drug-induced remission. I have my doctors, the medical community, and my family and friends to thank for that. They are my heroes. They may not have made it to the international news – but they most certainly have made the same impact to me as the divers made to the Wild Boars Soccer Team. I am alive today because of them – and because I believed in a solution. I had faith in the process. And there was some mighty Divine Intervention that had to have happened. In my opinion.
I have lived for nearly four years now with a previously “fatal” form of cancer. I am at peace with it. I have not resigned myself to it – but I have become stronger because of it. It took a lot of counselling and therapy to help me deal with my “new” reality, with the fears associated with having cancer, and with the memories of the trauma. The mental healing was, quite truthfully, more challenging than the physical healing. And I would anticipate the soccer team may require the same course of therapy to help them to emotionally deal with their ordeal as well. Their journey of recovery has only just begun.
Yes. I can relate.
I cannot presume to compare our journeys, but I feel I can walk a mile – have walked a mile – in their shoes. I am confident that, with the proper help, with prayer, and with patience and support from others, they will see they are made of tough stuff. I can only imagine what they will go on to achieve for themselves and, perhaps, for others.
Thank God for this very happy ending for the team – that in truth – is their beginning.
And I thank God for mine.