I have a cousin who lives far away from me. She lives in Iran. Six or seven years ago, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and she has gone through all the unimaginable painful treatments available.
Knowing how this woman was a resilient soul, I was sure that she would fight the cancer. However I could not imagine how.
My cousin is a woman who is funny, strong, positive, and encouraging; however her life was turned upside down due to the cancer, nothing out of the ordinary any ways.
My cousin is in her 50s and she is a a mother of three adult sons. This woman is truly the focal point for many people when they lose hope. Fighting cancer was a big task, something that would become an obstacle in the daily interactions with people.
My cousin was however an exception.
She did not like to let go of her abilities to offer others hope, while now she needed it the most.
In her battle with cancer, she started to reach out, to volunteer for senior homes, to raise money for poor school children, and to invite neighbours or friends for tea gatherings on a regular basis. She was doing all the work to distract herself from what was really bothering her.
It was obvious that my cousin was trying to fill up a gap, the distance between her awareness of cancer and her positive life habits. She started to spend her days with social activities as much as her decreasing energy would allow. At some point it seemed that she likes to deny or ignore the cancer and distract her mind from the painful treatments.
Every time I called, she would avoid any talk about cancer and illness, something that would make her sicker in my point of view. She would answer my questions about how she was doing, yet she managed to change the subject artistically.
In our phone conversations, I started to talk about positive psychology, meditation, relaxation techniques, and more. I knew she was interested of these subjects and she would listen to every spoken word. Phone calls were my only way to reach her and in those one hour or more talks, we made sure to be creative and joyful. At times, I could hear my cousin’s wishful thinking that she would cure herself by not giving the illness any space in her life; still she had a real battle, which required medical attention and hospital visits.
In every conversations, which we have many of them; she always expressed her desire for not conversing about her illness. I could realize that her choice of not giving the cancer a place in her life was a positive copying mechanism, yet she needed support in doing so.
Having a network of strong women, my cousin was enjoying all the phone calls from family and friends who lived elsewhere in the world. I could hear how she was proud of people remembering her although the physical distance was a sad story in itself. I had her in my prayers constantly and I knew all other people calling her or those who lived in her neighbourhood, would do the same. She was loved and people could express the love to her, this was more than any one can ask for.
During all these years, I have been able to listen to her struggles in getting better; however our physical and geographic distance would not let me to offer my support more than calling her. I never had any visual observations of her challenges and maybe just because of that at times I helped her to forget and to reject the cancer at least during our phone conversations.
I knew however that the cost for cancer treatment and the cost for all medications in Tehran was more than she could pay for, a reason why some small amount of financial support from family and friends would at times go a long way. In all and all the psychological support that these phone conversations was about, meant the whole world to my cousin.
Anyways, during this hard battle and many near to dead experiences, our phone conversations turned to a new direction. At some point my cousin told me that one of her best ways of dealing with inner stress was to write journals. This was a simple observation of a woman whose self concept and insight was inspiring. She told me about her many journals in which she tries to remember the good things in her life.
Since writing journals was one of my favourites, I suggested that she should consider writing a little book about the topics she was interested in.
One of those topics was the life story of her family, her parents, grand parents, and the unknown generations prior to her grandparents.
We had always spoken about how our past generations were interesting considering those stories we had heard about them.
For some reason this little comment came close to her heart as my cousin started reporting of her efforts in writing the life story.
My cousin whose cancer treatment was successfully finished four years ago, started to gather photos, old notes, and stories about her grand parents. According to my cousin, the journal would require some interesting evidence as the hand written notes of her father would add to the value of the family history.
At times, I could feel that the fear for cancer was lost in the moments and excitement for the writing of a family history.
I had never seen anyone taking one suggestion this seriously.
Now having passed her fourth year of a cancer free life, my cousin keeps writing and her story has not finished yet. Our phone conversations continue to be empowering and important, for the two of us as the deep bonds between us have a healing source.
My cousin has managed to depict the life story of a large family. She reports having filled up her third large note book which sounds like an anthropologic paper.
On this note, I keep thinking of the impact of writing and its psychological healing effect.
Words are about hope and hope cures human life. We all need plenty amount of hope and help.