But for all the compare and contrast of these unique individuals, they are all held together by the solidarity of their battle. Through the blood, sweat and tears they fight; they fight like gladiators in the arena. And gladiators they are, for they are desperately fighting for their lives. More so, they are fighting for what it means to be human.
As a hospital chaplain and pastor, I have visited countless bedsides, cancer wards and infusion labs; never have I grown accustomed to the brutalizing effects of the disease on both body and spirit. Cancer, like few other afflictions, does more than “steal, kill and destroy” the physique. It attempts to deprive a person of his or her dignity. It endeavors to smother the internal flame and erase the spirit of the one who suffers.
So those fighting cancer (and other horrible illnesses) are not just fighting for a few more years. They are fighting for what it means to be a human being. They are marshalling all their grit and resilience (and something that borders on elegance), not just to stay alive physically, but to guard their very souls.
Oddly, this reminds me of legendary pacifist Pastor A.J. Muste. During the Vietnam War he stood in front of the White House night after night with a lit candle, in persistent and peaceful protest. A reporter asked him, “Do you really think that standing here with a candle can change the world?” Paraphrasing, he answered with a smile, “I don’t stand here with my candle to change the world. I stand here to keep the world from changing me.”
Those in the arena understand that physical life may be taken from them, but by God’s grace, no disease will ever rob them of their humanity, their identity, of their innate worth as unique creations of the Almighty. They understand that the fight may not change their prognosis, but the fight prevents the disease from changing them.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.