“Operation Choose Joy.”
Steve Hartman of CBS News has a wonderful segment called “On the Road.” As soon as they announce that it will be on, I start to well up. He typically focuses on regular folks doing something simple and kind. Last week he profiled a young woman named Robyn whose mother Carla has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and they have chosen to find the joy in it. Wearing red noses to chemo appointments led to dressing up in different costumes and bringing gifts to the patients and nurses. This has permeated their lives and they call it “Operation Choose Joy.” You can see in the story what a profound impact it has had on not only Robyn and her mother, but also on their family, the staff and the patients where Carla is undergoing treatment. I can only imagine it has spread much farther than that. I know. I have been there.
When my brother Kevin was diagnosed with cancer and given a month to live, he had a firm belief that there was something after this life, and he was ok with dying. We tried to be supportive and not influence his decision, but hiding the fact that you would prefer for someone not to die is not easy.
As friends and family rallied around him, Kevin realized that while he was ok with what came next, we would not all be going with him. So, he decided to stay at the party a little longer, and give treatment a try. But, if he was going to stay at the party, it had better be worth it. Rather than see his cancer as a “fight” or a “battle,” he lived with it. While he was overwhelmingly positive, there were tough times and he didn’t necessarily wake up each day ready drink in all of the joy. But for the most part, he lived. In between doctors appointments and treatments he spent time with friends, he went dancing, he made the annual or semi-annual trips that were near and dear to him, he played piano, and got a seasonal job stringing lights on people’s Christmas trees (Kevin could make the trees absolutely glow with the help of thousands of lights and the patience to wind them around individual branches).
Kevin taught us so much about living – one day at a time, in the moment – the way we know we know we should live but life often gets in the way. I have said many times that Kevin choosing treatment was the greatest gift. He gave us almost two years of living in a heightened state of awareness. We valued the time we were able to spend with him. The hours talking about his philosophies on life, laughing over his puns and his wit, sitting quietly watching a movie, or eating at our favorite “dining room away from home.” In the end I, and my family, and Kevin’s friends are left with so many indelible and happy memories, and Kevin went on to his next journey knowing how much he was loved and appreciated along this one. Which is why he referred to his cancer as “the greatest gift in really ugly wrapping.”
When I heard Robyn and Carla’s story my heart filled with joy because it is a story I know well.
You can see more of Carla & Robyn’s story below.