So Steph and I have started a little tradition on Friday nights. After dinner, we go downstairs, grab a large bowl of popcorn, grab lemonade for the boys and NOT lemonade for us, and watch a movie in our basement. These movie nights usually consist of something we’ve seen a few hundred times, but they’re a great chance to connect with Sam and Ben, especially before the sports and the chores and the mania of a typical weekend kicks into gear.
So two Fridays ago, as we’re running through the typical list of Spy Kids, The Goonies, Percy Jackson, et al… one popped up that I had taken the boys to last year at the dollar show: The Croods.
I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but Nicholas Cage plays Grug, the dad of the last clan of cave people left alive, and the star of the family is Eep, played by Emma Stone. And the basic premise is after their cave is destroyed by the coming dismantling of Pangea, they must either adapt by finding a new neighborhood, or perish. Guy, played by Ryan Reynolds, is the somewhat evolved young man who captures Eep’s affections while leading them to their new world.
I highly recommend the film, itself. It’s well acted, animated, and there are quite a few really funny moments. But the part of the film that affected me the most was when Grug looked like a goner. A dynamically strong father figure, Grug’s main focus was keeping his family alive. He had convinced everyone that fear was a good thing, and change always led to something that could kill you. His motto: “Never not be afraid.”
Yet through the journey of finding a new world for his family, he realized that change is not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact is the only thing that would save his clan.
So in a moment that I did not expect, while in a cave that appeared to be his final resting place, he started painting pictures. He created these great scenes of his family and their survival, of the first time they saw fire, of the creatures they encountered, and of their amazing tales on their journey. He was a happy man possessed, determined to get this message on to something that would endure. It truly struck a chord with me.
Fast forward to Monday, January 20. I had the enormous honor of being featured in the Survivor Spotlight of the Stupid Cancer Radio Show, which is beyond amazing if you have not checked it out. We had a really nice, wide-ranging conversation about survival, the journey, and what we decided to do once we were done with the whole “trying to get better” part.
I was asked, “So what still needs to be done?” And for some reason, I automatically flashed back to Grug painting in a cave. And I realized that for all of the character’s brawn, his brain had finally caught up when he came to the conclusion that his story was bigger than himself. He knew that long after he was gone, his stories would live forever, and maybe… just maybe… others would see them and be comforted…or helped… or inspired… or even simply taught. In our advancing years, long out of school, how often do we really learn something new, or gain an insight that we may have never had before?
And that is why as patients, caregivers, survivors, and those close to people who have succumbed, we have to tell our stories. Because these stories are not just mindless banter, or even a catharsis for us to feel better about what is a really crappy situation. The stories are for those who have yet to be affected, and they are in honor of those who came before us.
Cancer is that odd fraternity that binds people with unmistakable strength into a community that no one ever wants to join. Yet once we’re here, we now have the opportunity to share with others what we know. It could be something as little as, “This drug causes constipation, so when you take it, add a little Dulcolax.” Or it could be something as large as, “At some point, you are going to push everyone away, and you will probably lose people you thought were friends over it, but these are the warning signs if you start heading into that avalanche.”
So thank you to those who have already had the courage to tell their tales. And for those who haven’t, I urge you to search your heart for even one simple thing that could help others. And if you don’t have your own platform constructed yet, please feel free to add them to the comments below, which are open to all.
Together, we can and will lift the veil on this horrendous disease. We are stronger than cancer. Our stories prove it.