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Cancer. Death. Something about it. Something about women and cancer, women and death. I’ve known many victims. Tragically yet it seems, never too many. Mothers, in-laws, cousins, friends, friends of friends, teachers, mentors. Once so full of vigor, cheeks blossoming from the warm blood which courses through healthy, embossed veins and arteries; muscles firm and smiles so bright; bones so strong to withstand the storm of everyday. All of it depleted so swiftly by a diagnosis.

The body shrivels. Hair is lost. Bones creak. Muscles ache. The eyes sink deep into an abyss as tumors gnaw their way inside her. She writhes in pain. The internal torture of a soul trapped in body which has finally betrayed her. Womankind. Sweet, generous, and gracious womankind. How my heart breaks when I hear of another losing her battle. How my heart breaks when I hear another starting hers.

I imagine what it must be like. No. I cannot imagine. It is beyond the reality I know to bear. But I sense, in their struggle, the final battle – one which renders all the niceties of the earth, the accessories of life which makes it worth living, useless. After all the love, the pain, the riches, the vanity, the joys, the precarious hopes, the minor victories, the grand accomplishments, it comes down to one battle: woman and death. A stirring portrait. An eloquent suffering. A despicable disease.

I imagine the devil, strongest in the hour of death, when surviving is no more an option as it is for a wave to reach shore. I imagine the devil, so tempestuous, scolding the woman, disabusing her, telling her she is nothing. I imagine the woman, with all the courage she can muster, refusing to die in vain, telling the devil, she will pass away gracefully, embracing the war like the truest of soldiers.

Something about women, and war. A war not of this reality. Now the stories of those who have survived mean even more. And the tragedies of those who have lost, are less bitter, but not less difficult to hear.

So I choose to remember the women who lost to cancer, when they were at their healthiest, at their prime. Not as shrivelled bodies. Not as tales of mortality. Not merely as statistics. Not weak bodies. I choose to remember them, when their hair would still be streamed by careless winds, when their arms would carry the glory of new life, when their lips would color the skin of everyone else, when their hearts would open to love another being, when their eyes would glimmer in anticipation of a new day they would change. I choose to remember them when they were every furious beauty in this world, with spirits not even death could deny.

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