Shanna Decker is a 29 year-old Jesus-loving, childhood cancer survivor and amputee (with a backwards leg) turned professional mentor for thousands facing childhood cancer. Shes the founder of Childhood Cancer Community and has been a professional speaker since age 7. Contact her to inspire your event at www.BecauseLoveWins.com!
Today, I want to make mention of these people – who have stood by us in great times, bizarre times, and hard times. Who make us laugh, bring purpose to our lives, and who we could not be ourselves without. These are words for them:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
I spend a lot of time thinking about the end of early life compared to those around me.
Stubbed my toe? I’ll be in Heaven someday. This is okay.
Someone isn’t kind to me? They probably need a hug. Life is short.
Family needs help? Yes. Just yes. Life is short.
Someone picks on me? Doesn’t matter – the earth won’t matter at some point.
I’m tired? Still need to call my mom and dad.
When I was in the second grade, I heard three words that changed everything about me. “You have cancer.”
We weren’t a super exceptional family. We played together and argued and laughed. We ate dinner together and tried to give each other the space we needed to function. My sister and I were little – growing. Needing love. Mom and dad were older, but still needing love. We were by no means perfect.
Then cancer happened. And I changed. But so did the other three people who fought alongside me. My sister was my best friend, and she knows that, because she still is. But my mom and dad were my brain, and my comfort, and my hope.
I weighed somewhere around 50 lbs when I started my 49 weeks of chemotherapy. I was always so exhausted from the treatment that I often had a hard time waking up in the middle of the night. That paired with having fluids pumped into me all day every day made a lot of room for wet beds.
I would roll over, “Mommy, (who was sleeping on a terribly uncomfortable couch) I had an accident.” She was exhausted, but she loved me. And these are the moments when someone knows what real love is. She changed my clothes and moved my IV pole over to her bed where I went back to sleep. The nurses could have changed the bedding, but my mom always insisted upon doing it.
My dad spent the night with me on the weekends. He was strong enough to carry me, so every night he would set an alarm to wake me up to take me to the bathroom to prevent having an accident. I was frail, and sick, and he would gently wake me up, carry me into the bathroom which he kept dimly lit, and take care of me. Then he would carry me back and we’d drift back to our hospital sleep.
And that’s why you need to call your mom and dad. Because no matter what you think they did wrong, they did stuff. They took care of you, changed your diapers, worked to feed you, and honestly, kept you alive this long. That’s a lot of work.
I hate seeing my parents grow older. Cancer taught us to call each other. I talk to my mom at least 3 times each day. Because you know what? Life is supposed to be like that. We’re supposed to be obsessed with each other and want to talk to each other. Someone should know what we’re eating for lunch and it shouldn’t have to be on facebook.
And I hate seeing them grow older because I know that unlike most people my age, I won’t have to worry about if we were close enough. I’ll know that we were, because I won’t know how to move forward without my best of best friends to share each day with.
Think about it next time you’re worried about yourself before your parents. Then pick up the phone and ask them how they are.
Some of the greatest mistakes that I have ever seen others make come from being silent when they need to speak. Today, I went on a drive by myself. I watched a deer jump around and then the sunset after that. I thought through the richness of my most recent conversations:
“He just got his feeding tube. He’s not a big fan of it.” “Can I hold your hand?” “I always dreamed of something like this.” “I cannot believe this is happening.” “Will you be my best friend?”
And then I thought about what would have happened in the lives of these people had we not spoken. They wouldn’t know me, and I wouldn’t know them. When they or I leave the earth, we wouldn’t have last words to share. We wouldn’t have changed each other’s hearts.
I’ve lost quite a few friends. And the things that were most important (and remain the most important) are the moments of rawness. The tears, the Gospel, the serious ache. The “I’m sorry.” and “I forgive you.” The “That’s annoying.” and “That’s funny.” And the teary eyed conversations that end in prayer and laughter.
The gist is this. Fear is easy. Love is hard.
Let yourself always say the kind things that you need to say. You’ll be so happy you did. And so will everyone else.