In May 2006, Leroy Sievers began a Morning Edition commentary on his fight with cancer by saying, "My doctors are trying to kill me." Sievers is now contributing monthly commentaries to Morning Edition, writing the daily "My Cancer" blog on NPR.org and voicing a weekly podcast.
After that day, your life is never the same. "That day" is the day the doctor tells you, "You have cancer." Every one of us knows someone who's had to face that news. It's scary, it's sad. But it's still life, and it's a life worth living. "My Cancer" is a daily account of my life and my fight with cancer.
And as I sit here, writing about cancer and the struggles that we are all going through, I started to think about the things we carry. All of our actions, good and bad. Words spoken that shouldn't have been. Words not spoken that should have been. Loves, found and lost, and those that never were. Times we were at our best, our worst, and when we were just plain human. Memories, wishes, dreams. It's a heavy load.
O'Brien also talks about the term "humping." It's a term that I think started in Vietnam, but may have been around much longer. It means to carry something, usually something heavy, over rough terrain. Or just to travel that tough path.
Journalists have adopted the term. "Just hump your gear over to the plane," or something like that. For those of us with cancer, sometimes the burdens can seem extra heavy. We carry -- no, we hump -- the pain, the anxiety, the fear and our loved ones, too. All of that on our backs, or at least, it can feel like that.
It's tempting sometimes to think that we should discard some of the load, or maybe even set the whole burden down. But those things that we carry are what make us who we are. Each one is precious.
I think I can hump my load a little while longer.