A figure pushing a wall showing strength and perseverance

Strength in the Journey

I know we all hear those words from people around us so many times -- you are strong. I hear those words and kind of laugh to myself because I know I am far from strong. I am currently reading a devotional by Lisa Bevere Strong called Devotions to live a Powerful & Passionate Life. (I am not an influencer of this author, just a consumer.) The very first devotion speaks about being strong in everything. I looked up the definition of strong and strength and nothing about that definition seemed to fit me.

What does strength look like?

The devotion went on to say that on a journey of strength we are to be meek and gentle. Then I really got to thinking because if cancer has done anything it hasn’t exactly made me gentle, but some days more like an angry mob -- not at anyone, but just at the life changes that I have faced. The motherhood ripped from me. The whole growing old with my husband and so on. How does that bring strength? That feels like weakness in every way. Losing your hopes and dreams doesn’t look like strength. Losing a career doesn’t look like strength nor does it feel like it.

How am I strong?

You are so strong. How so? I often want to ask that question when told that. How? How am I strong? Please tell me. Is there another choice here? I suppose we all have choices. We can fight for strength or we can succumb to weakness. Giving in to weakness is something I refuse to do, so does that make me strong?

So many before have fought longer and more difficult battles that I have. Some with disease and some not. Some with horrifying experiences in their personal lives. There’s so much more out there that demonstrates what strength looks like and that really isn’t me.

It's about withstanding pressure and force

Then I dive deeper into the definition of “strong” and it mentions being able to withstand pressure or force. I have withstood the pressure of cancer -- you are right. I have kept going. I have accepted that this thing doesn’t define me but is just something that has happened to me.

I try to be positive. I go to my doctor's appointments. I research holistic approaches to cancer. I monitor my food. I sleep when I am tired. I avoid toxicity as all costs whether physical or emotional. I thought that was living. Living each day with intent. It doesn’t necessarily show strength, does it? I mean I haven’t done anything but continue to be thankful for every new day that I am given because not one more breath is owed to me.

Strength comes from defying expectations

Some synonyms of the word “strong” are secure, resilient, tough. When I was first diagnosed, my thoracic surgeon told my oncologist, “She’s a tough one”. I wanted to ask what made me tough? The fact that I didn’t respond outwardly the way my body wanted to react to the news of stage IV lung cancer at 36 inwardly. I wanted to pitch a two-year-old fit but didn’t. I wanted to kick and scream but didn’t. The fact that I blankly stared into his cold dark eyes of zero remorse as he just literally gut-punched me with his life-changing words. That made me “tough”?

I was tough because I didn’t react the way he thought I should react.

The uncertainties give us a fight

I think so-called strength on this journey isn’t a trait that is learned or taught. It’s a norm that is instilled in us the moment we hear the life-changing news. The uncertainties give us a fight, unlike anything we’ve ever known or experienced within ourselves. It’s like the famous “flight or fight” syndrome occurs within our own psyche -- an acute stress response helping us to keep going. The desire to live more good days becomes ever-present in our minds.

Alone, I am not strong. My support helps me to find my inner strength more than anything else. I also find strength in my spiritual life. If you would have told me five years ago, that I would be in this battle, I would have fallen apart and completely folded. The words “I can’t imagine” come to fruition. We couldn’t imagine before and we can’t explain now.

Maybe I am strong...

There’s a quote that says, “Looking from the outside in, you can never understand it. Standing on the inside looking out you can never explain it.” That’s how I feel when someone says I am strong. I understand their intent, but it’s so far from reality.

This hand of cards we’ve been dealt is something that we have to pick up with all our might and keeping going even on the difficult days. I suppose that is strength in and of itself. Maybe I am strong. You are too.

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