Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Little Story of Faith and Hope

It was just this week that I realized that I have never shared the story of Hope and Faith. Now is as good of a time as any, I suppose.

When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Stage III breast cancer four years ago at the age of 26, I received two little stuffed bears from my mother along with a letter. These bears had been given to her by someone who worked with her at Lees Corner Elementary School.

The letter explained that these bears were purchased while this woman’s mother was battling breast cancer. The woman lived locally in Northern Virginia while her mother was in New York. Because of the distance and inability to be with one another during imaging, doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy treatments and so on, they used these bears, which they named Hope and Faith to give them a sense of connection. For over a year they would carry the bears wherever they went, no matter how silly the circumstance and that kept them connected, so they never felt alone.

I was so moved by the kindness of this gesture. Since my mother is a teacher, she was unable to take the time off to be at ever appointment of mine, so my mother and I carried these little bears throughout my journey … for almost two years. My bear, named Faith, would sit in my chemo chair with me, slept in my bed after my mastectomy and even laid on the floor with me in the bathroom on nights I was sick and having severe panic attacks. I knew my mother (“my rock”) had her bear and that kept us strong and together.

When my godfather Bill was diagnosed with bladder cancer I knew it was time to pass on our bears. When I told my mom my wishes I remember her crying and saying, “I don’t know if I can. I continue to talk to my bear and pray to her. She keeps you healthy.” I hadn’t realized how important her bear Hope had become to her over time. It is amazing how we cling to certain objects, like me being unable to part with my wigs because I feel like they keep the cancer away. But after thinking it over, she agreed and both my godfather and I carried our bears when he had treatments and doctors appointments. It never left my side – it kept me connected to him.

The bears were returned once my Godfather was cancer-free. But it wasn’t long until they would be needed again. My friend’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and the bears were called on again. My friend and her mother used the bears to remind themselves that they were always with one another and now her mother is cancer-free. They are discussing getting tattoos of “hope” and “faith” as a constant reminder of their relationship and connection during such a difficult journey. The power of hope and faith.

On Monday before Jenn’s mediport surgery I told her the story of the two bears. Both she and her friend Amy listened as I told the story of their amazing little journey and healing powers. They both were moved by the story. Amy told me that her children’s middle names are “Hope” and “Faith.” Jenn chose the bear “Hope” and once again I was reunited with my dear friend “Faith” which we will carry with us until Jenn is cancer-free.

Now, I know in my head that these are just two little stuffed bears, but I believe they symbolize what I am finding is essential to all of us, especially during a time of need. Connection. Validation. These are what give us Hope and Faith. That someone is there even in the darkest of hours or have been there and made it out alive. You don’t necessarily need a bear, but I believe talking to my bear, praying to my bear and knowing that someone else was doing the same made all the difference during my journey. Nothing is too silly if it makes our heart happy and gives you a sense of hope in the darkest of hours. Because regardless of pain, illness and loss, there is always faith, hope and above all else, love.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I knew about the bears, but certainly not what their journey has been.