The Night Cancer Did Not Get To Win

The Night Cancer Did Not Get To Win

My college roommates, Heidi (L) and Sandra (R) who show me it's never too late to do what's important.
My college roommates, Heidi (L) and Sandra (R) who show me it’s never too late to do what’s important.

Too many days.

Too many days, that awful, despicable, rude, ruthless bully called, “cancer” has knocked on the door of those I love.

That day in high school when it took the life of my best friend, Cyndi’s, mother.

That day just out of college when my roommate, Sandra’s, mother was diagnosed. Doctors gave her less than a year. She got the rare last laugh and lived 10 more.

That day in ’97 when it was my other roommate, Heidi’s mother who was diagnosed.

In 2003, it was my own mother.

And just last year, as I shared with you here, Dear Reader, it was Heidi, herself. Diagnosed with breast cancer.

Cancer won each of those days.

Gave us moments we thought we were defeated.

Then, there was last week.

Last week, hosted the night cancer didn’t get to win.

That night.

That one night something so special happened.

Sandra and Heidi, my dear friends, my college roommates had their bat mitzvah.

Yes, you got that right.

Bat Mitzvah.

Sandra and Heidi reading from The Torah at their bat mitzvah, almost 40 years after most Jewish girls undertake this ritual.
Sandra and Heidi reading from The Torah at their bat mitzvah, almost 40 years after most Jewish girls undertake this ritual.

As in the ritual that Jewish girls have to enter adulthood when they 13 years old.

Only, when Heidi and Sandra were growing up, they didn’t have that opportunity.

So, they decided to do it, well, now.

I flew out to California for a service and the night I knew I would not miss.

My date? Of course, it was Cyndi. Cyndi, who lost her mom to cancer. Cyndi who has shared every milestone with me since that first day of kindergarten.

Cyndi, my best friend since the first day of kindergarten. True story! We've shared every major milestone of our lives. I've known her longer than my own little sister, who wasn't born until first grade!
Cyndi, my best friend since the first day of kindergarten. True story! We’ve shared every major milestone of our lives. I’ve known her longer than my own little sister, who wasn’t born until first grade!

Sitting side by side that night in the synagogue pews, Cyndi and I smiled looking up at Heidi and Sandra having their sacred moment.

We smiled this night because we knew this was the night that cancer could not win.

We smiled because we knew there is not a single person who chooses cancer, but here were Heidi and Sandra showing us that you still do get to choose.

No matter what your faith.

You get to choose to do what’s important.

You get to show, that sometimes, it’s not too late to do what many might’ve done decades before.

You get to choose the bond of lifelong friendships, of being there for the darkest and happiest of times.

When it came to the part of the service where the rabbi asks, “Is there anyone who has a loved one who is ill who needs our prayers?” Cyndi stood up.

“Who are you praying for?” the rabbi asked in front of the entire synagogue.

“My younger sister, Caitlyn,” she shared as the tears began to flow.

See, just last month, cancer came knocking again. This time it’s Caitlyn, who is fighting breast cancer.

As Cyndi sat back down, we prayed, we cried, we hugged.

Holding onto each other.

Holding onto hope for Caitlyn’s recovery.

Protecting against all the days that cancer tries to take away.

Holding onto the knowledge that cancer can never take away that night, or our friendship, or our commitment to each other.

On that front, cancer will never win.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

3 thoughts on “The Night Cancer Did Not Get To Win

  1. DAK, another heartfelt, amazing story. I lost my mom and aunt and several friends to cancer, and I know that everyone out there has been touched by this terrible disease in some way. You are (still) such a great writer, I;m so glad to have known YOU for so many years and that we are still just a click away on FB. 🙂

    Like

  2. Dear Daryn, Thank you for your story. As tears course down my cheeks, I’m thinking of my nephew’s wife who fought the fight and won. Today is the 22nd anniversary of my mother’s death, not from breast cancer, which she had a age 82, but lung cancer a year later. Hang on to those you love right this moment, and be sure to tell them that you do.

    Like

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