Indulge me for a moment and imagine life as a movie. You put the tape in the VCR, hit rewind, and listen till the whirring sound of the cassette grows louder and louder. It snaps to a halt. You are now at your earliest memory. Play.
My earliest memory is my grandmother. She was harsh and rugged on the outside with a sweet spot on the inside. The only thing that could soothe her biting words was the gentle touch of her hand.
I can recall my grandmother, sitting in front of a fireplace, holding me in her arms. With her glasses hanging around her neck, she would talk in a gentle voice.
It wasn’t until many years later I realized why it was that she had no hair. Cancer had taken her out of this world almost as quickly as I had just entered it.
Fast forward. Play. I am six years old. “Why do I only have one grandpa?” I asked my dad. He sat next to me on the couch.
“Well, your grandpa went away,” he explained.
“Where did he go?”
“Into the ground.”
I will never forget the first time I saw my grandfather’s gravesite. I visit it every time I go home.
Fast forward. Play. It is now four years later. I am holding in my hand a small gray box with a tiny green LED screen. It was my most prized possession. It was my GameBoy. Knowing that she would be alone that night, I hand it to my mother. As she reaches out to take it, I notice she has a needle stuck into the back of her hand. I am afraid of needles and back away from my mother. She smiles and tells me everything will be OK.
At 10 years old, I can’t understand why it is my mother will never have children again. I can’t understand why she looks so tired, why she is in pain, and why I have to leave her all alone in a hospital.
Fast forward. Play. I am sitting in a car. My sister is driving me to the video store. She has something important to tell me. She begins to cry.
“I have cancer.”
I never realized, until that moment, how cancer has affected my life.
Fast forward. Play. It is September of 2002. Just over a month ago. I find a spot. My heart races, my head fills with blood. I go to see my doctor. It turns out to be nothing. I cry all the way home.
Fast forward. Play. Last Friday, I participated in Bald for Bucks for Cancer, an event designed to raise money for cancer research as well as awareness of those affected by cancer. It occurred to me, as I was sitting in the chair, that there are people in this world, much like myself, who have personally been touched by cancer but never thought about it.
Every one of us has at least known someone whose life was affected by cancer. You’ve heard my story, so you can’t say it’s not true. I just wanted to take one moment out of your life, a moment many don’t have, to say: be grateful for every day you have to live. Be thankful for the ability to wake up in the morning and go to school or work without worrying whether you will keep your breakfast down. Be thankful that you don’t get winded walking to the bathroom. Colorado State University’s efforts to increase diversity at the university are starting to pay off. Be thankful for your hair. For the next few months, I will not have any. A reminder of what some of those close to me have had to endure.
Do me a favor. Call someone you care about and tell them what they mean to you. If you know someone who has battled or is battling cancer, give him or her your love, your respect, and the knowledge that, though they may feel alone, they have someone there who cares about them and is willing to show their support.
Now imagine again your life as a movie, your internal VCR still whirring away. Stay away from the fast forward button; while you’re guessing the ending, you’re missing the good parts. Keep your finger off “rewind;” you’ve already seen the past. Live every moment to the fullest. You never know when the movie may suddenly end.