By Dave Balch
An effective way of coping with cancer or any other serious personal situation is to celebrate each victory along the way.
I was reminded of this recently while returning from a speaking engagement in Sioux City, Iowa. We had just landed in Chicago and were taxiing to the terminal when the pilot announced that we were about to pass a plane being washed down on the tarmac by fire trucks. He didn’t want us to be alarmed, so he explained that this was a ritual performed when a pilot retired and was approaching the terminal at the end of his final flight.
Sure enough, as we passed the streams of water were raining down on the plane from fire hoses and I was impressed by how wonderful that must have felt for the pilot, being recognized for reaching this major milestone in his life.
It occurred to me that the same was true for my wife, Chris, when we celebrated some of her milestones. For example, when she finished her final chemo treatment I produced some flowers that I had secretly purchased during the treatment itself. Then, when the IV was disconnected for the final time, she got a quiet round of applause.
When Chris was undergoing her final radiation treatment I felt we should recognize her for enduring 30 treatments spread over six weeks. Each treatment was in two phases and the radiation techs would leave the room during each phase, which gave me a chance to coordinate my plan with them. Then I recruited several people from the waiting room with whom we had become friendly during the weeks of treatment.
Following the final phase of the final treatment, we all went into the room and, while Chris was getting off of the table, we applauded her and cheered loudly. It was a small room so it seemed like a lot more than seven people, and was quite an ovation.
As tired and uncomfortable as she was, I know she appreciated it and it made all of us feel good. It was quite a high and a stress-buster as well.
Sometimes treatment is ongoing and seems like it will last forever, but there will always be victories to celebrate along the way. Some will be big, some will be small, but they are all worth recognizing. It feels great for everyone involved and helps generate the feeling that you are, in fact, making progress even though it seems like treatments will never end.
Whether it is a lavish meal in a fine restaurant or a group of people who simply get together to offer their congratulations, it is worth the effort and gives the patient (and caregiver, too) a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.
…and we need all the encouragement we can get!