Living With Awareness

Earlier in the year, I woke up one morning with a severe neck spasm. I had no range of motion, my head ached with the pain radiating up from my neck and shoulders – and I couldn’t find any relief. Several hours later, I found myself in a walk-in clinic being handed muscle relaxers and pain killers.
It doesn’t sound horrible unless you’ve experienced it.

And unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to find genuine sympathy. I manage a physical therapy office – I know what pain looks like. But I didn’t really know what it felt like. Not until that Saturday morning in March.
The following Monday at work, I found myself taking extra care to comfort patients in pain. And I felt remorseful at not reaching out to them sooner. I had to be brought through their ordeal to really begin to care. It’s not that I didn’t care at all before, but true caring requires action. I found myself doing more, and speaking less. And this entire experience revealed a side of my human nature I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, yet one I wanted to explore more.
We as humans tend to ignore that which we aren’t familiar with.
We find it difficult to connect with situations we’ve not experienced and therefore live oblivious to others unless we have common ground.

I didn’t want to go back to my state of unawareness. If I couldn’t completely understand someone’s struggle, at the very least I wanted to be mindful of it. So in turn, I could do something about it, no matter how small.
We live in a society that’s broken, true, yet there is still an innate sense in most humans to want to help those in need. We dedicate days and sometimes entire months to help bring awareness to certain issues and illnesses.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You’ve seen the gold ribbon on your Facebook newsfeed, I’m sure. The statistics are there – close to 15,000 children will have been diagnosed with some form of cancer within a month’s time. But that doesn’t mean much until it hits your family or a friend.

But it should. And it should mean a lot.

I’ll be honest – Sure, I would tear up at the St. Jude’s commercials on TV just like everyone else, but it wasn’t until my friend’s little boy Wade was diagnosed with Plueropulmonary Blastoma that I really started to see these kids.

And seeing should only be the beginning.
Seeing should lead to caring, and caring lead to doing.

Wade became everyone’s superhero. You can see in his photographs that his happy little spirit was beautiful. You felt warmth in his presence. And his absence is still felt – even thought it’s been almost one year ago that Jesus took him home to rest. I believe his story prompted a lot of people to begin caring more. Their eyes were opened to the other children still left to battle against deadly diseases. And they’re doing something about it.

Tonight there is a benefit being held in honor of Wade’s extraordinary little life.Yes, it is to celebrate him, but it’s also to give strength and support to another little superhero fighting the same disease Wade had. Prior obligations made it impossible for me to attend, but I’m so thankful to live in a community of people that are lending a helping hand to another family at such a hard time.
It’s true that awareness alone won’t cure disease. It can’t remove the feelings of pain and fear and sorrow. I think we sometimes fail to act because we fear it won’t be enough. Someone is in the fight for the life, and all we can do is wear a yellow bracelet? It seems so trivial in light of what they’re facing.

But the symbolism behind it is what’s priceless. I’ve never experienced even a fraction of the agony of watching a loved one fight for their life, but I’ve heard time and time again the testimonies of the people that have and they will tell you that the smallest of gestures sometimes makes all the difference. The simple fact that someone is aware of their pain can be enough to give them strength to press on. We cannot bear the cross they carry, but we can light the path with love and caring.
And what’s more, you can see how one life can change everything. Wade has taught so many how to love deeper. He showed us how little things can make a difference. And he reminds us every day to live with awareness of those around us.
We’re richer for having known him.

So let’s not stop caring. September is almost gone, but there’s still little ones out there battling it out day after day. Find them and give all you can, in any way you can.

A life well lived is one spent caring with everything you have.

For more information on childhood cancer research, visit St. Jude’s website here

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