When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
From "When God and Cancer Meet" by Lynn Ebb:
Cancer has a nasty habit of taking things away from people-things like hair and strength and jobs and time. Sometimes it takes them away for a short while and sometimes it takes them away permanently. Cancer may have already taken something from you.
But this is not a story about what cancer takes. It's about what it can give back. It's about what it gave back to Peggy. It's about what it could give back to you.
Due to breathing problems, Peggy was in the hospital again. (She wasn't in good health when she got cancer, and many of her medical problems were not cancer related.) We chatted for a long time. Peggy was a real people lover and was never at a loss for words. Finally, she got around to the really important thing weighing on her heart.
"You know, there's some good things comin' out of this cancer," she told me in her slightly Southern drawl.
I didn't know that, but I was anxious to hear.
"I hate havin' cancer," she continued. "I still wish I didn't have it and that God would take it all away. But I think God's usin' my cancer to give me back my momma."
She proceeded to tell me, without much detail, how her mother, who had abandoned her as a child and whom she hadn't seen for decades, had shown up at her hospital bed the day before.
"She heard my cancer was back and she came to see me," Peggy said.
She held up a plastic-faced doll wearing a green-and-white crocheted dress.
"She brought me this doll for a present," she continued. "It's the first present she ever gave me in her whole life."
Forty-seven years old and she'd never had a gift from her mother. I don't think I've ever seen my mother and she hasn't given me a gift.
Peggy looked adoringly at the doll. I wouldn't have paid fifty cents for it in a store, but I knew it was priceless to Peggy.
"I think my momma really loves me, don't you?" Peggy finally said.
Forty-seven years old and she's never heard her mother say, "I love you."
"I think your momma loves you a whole lot," I told her. "I love you a whole lot, too, Peggy, and God loves you the most of all."
Less than a week later, Peggy showed up at the oncologist's office with a plastic-faced doll wearing a long, pink-and-white crocheted dress for our staff. The secretaries thanked her appropriately, but I knew they were baffled about why she wanted to give us such a strange office gift.
I explained to them the doll was like the one Peggy's mother had given her.
It represented love and hope and forgiveness and a whole lot more.
It represented healing of something a lot deeper than cancer.
It represented something beautiful cancer gave back.