Some people’s lives are noted for their activism, their ability to inspire all of us. Not everyone hears the drum in their soul. And not everyone is recognized in their life as overcoming or possessing a fighting a spirit that can’t be kept down. “ I will rise” says Maya… and others. Some people, both the famous and the unknown, listen for the beat and unabashedly dance to the music.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”, and how I wish I had a picture, other than the mind’s eye visual that comes to me immediately when I think of Shirley. It was my first visit to their home. Her spouse met me outside, anxiety emanating from him as he began a barrage of questions about her disease and what was needed to care for her. As I entered the room, I spied Shirley sitting on the couch, and had to control what my facial expression displayed as I introduced myself.
It is hard for any of us to look at and accept disfigurement. Cancer that is inside the body growing seems to be easier to handle than the exterior growth of tumors, and I don’t know how people suffering these kinds of cancers cope day to day, but a number of my patients have blown me over with their valor.
Shirley was no exception.
She told me in her own unique speech, now so affected by the tumor growth, that she took things “A day at a time” and immediately latched on to my hand, telling me some of her story. She laughed and smiled and cried and I was incensed that this woman had to deal with such a horrible disease in her life. So unfair. So cruel.
I asked her at one point, “How do you manage dealing with the hard things in your life, day to day?”
“Oh”, she says. “Let me show you.” She slowly gets off the couch, with obvious pain in her hips where the cancer has settled in her bones, and goes over to the stereo. There is suddenly a tribal drum beat, and percussion vibrating in the little living room. And Shirley begins gyrating to this music, while punching her hands in the air as she sings her own lyrics,
“You can’t get me down”, “You’re not the boss of me”, “I am strong”….And she does a booty dance, moving with litheness and rhythm and I don’t understand how, knowing how filled her body is with cancerous tumors. I giggle and clap, and she smiles and laughs
and dances. I want to laugh hysterically, or cry hysterically, but I just watch and love this moment.
As I prepare to leave a little later, she lifts her body painfully from the couch and I say, “Oh, no, don’t get up for me, I’ll see myself out”. She grimaces with the effort, but says quite emphatically, “No, I need to give you some love”, and awaits my hug into her open arms. “Oh, what a woman. Oh the love. Oh the overcoming power of the human spirit”, I think as I walk to my car, with a smile on my face that I can’t get rid of for the rest of my day.