Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Fighting Goalie



I have long thought teenagers with cancer seem very isolated. They face a very unique battle, one that is difficult the rest of us to fully understand. They have a full adult understanding of what is before them. But they have very little life experience to help them deal with events that few adults handle well. Just as they are tasting life, it is ripped from them.

They are at an age that begs for independence, but are forced into dependence on others. Just when they should be out seeking and learning new relationships, they are isolated around family, nurses, and doctors. While their friends are stressing over what to wear and who to date, they face decisions involving sterility, amputation, and life itself.

When I was 15, the greatest fear in my life was a delay in getting my learners permit to drive. Tyler was diagnosed with cancer at 15, one week before getting his learners permit. Suddenly the questions changed from "when" to "if". Would he ever drive? Would he return to school? Would he fall in love, ever date, ever get married? Would he have a career?

The questions are never asked, but they hang in the air.

The response from these young adults, from my observation, is amazing. Their singleness of purpose, their fight, their passion for life, is life something I had never witnessed before. They demand information and face the answers with courage. And they respond to everyone with an outpouring of love and compassion.

One of the greatest illustrations of this is Christina O'Bryan. In her small body, she has more fight per pound than anyone I have every witnessed. At 19 years old, she has been fighting for over 6 years. And her fight has never diminished.

They say teenagers are spastic and unfocused. But how many of us have focused non-stop on a single objective for over 6 years?

Christina is living, walking proof that cancer does have limits. Even when cancer Christina's hip, she refused to slow down. Doctors said she must give up her passion for hockey, but "give up" does not exist in her vocabulary. So Christina became a goalie on a sled hockey team, and has risen the the highest level she can in the sport. You see, cancer can not touch the soul, can not touch the heart, has no access to the spirit.

And I know something that cancer has not yet figured out...that a fighting goalie will never lose.
Always fight to win.

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