I walked out the door of the infusion center following my final chemo session. After five months of potent drugs and uncomfortable side effects, it was over.
Suddenly, the sunshine was brighter, the chirping birds louder, and the people around me happier. Only then did I acknowledge the darkness that had enveloped me.
I thought I was a positive patient. I thought I reported rather than complained. I thought my cancer conversations were confident and casual, not cries for sympathy and consolation.
Now I learned the attitude I revealed and the fear I concealed were my ways of fending off the demons of the night. Only in the light of that day was I able to see the shadow that my cancer had cast.
A tumor in the colon is less statistically lethal than in the breast or pancreas, but anyone with cancer will tell you that the analytics do not diminish the thought of death. That was the capital D in my Darkness, but it was not alone.
There was regret for things that I had done, but even more, for what I have not done and perhaps will never do. There was the worry that the collateral damage of the drugs would be permanent or my future health compromised.
Darkness harbors dread, but it is protective and generative as well. Genesis says God formed the world out of darkness. Total darkness was one of the plagues that freed the Israelites from Pharaoh’s chains. Even today, the Jewish Sabbath begins at dusk, and the darkness is endured before the light is celebrated.
Jesus dwelled in the darkness of the grave before rising to Easter dawn. Nature reflects this in the seed waiting in the darkness of the ground before lunging toward the sun. The child gestates in the darkness of the womb, preparing for the light.
While darkness may seem frightful and endless, something good and necessary can be struggling its way into being. We tend to attribute the darkness to our physical pains and emotional pangs, but these are often the hard labor of birth.
In my darkness, there was healing and the birth of another chance. In my darkness, I encountered the relentless power of prayer and the constant need for reconciliation.
In my darkness, I was embraced by the underestimated love of family and friends — and the unexpected care of strangers.
I cherish the light, but thank God for the darkness.