Monday, February 24, 2014

The power of hope

Tonight we went to my aunt and uncle's home for dinner. After dinner, my uncle, Larry, told us a story of our ancestors and their trek across the country to get to Utah. Larry is quite the Mormon historian and I love hearing his stories. He makes it all so real.

Anyway, the story is of two sisters who heard the Mormon message from missionaries while they were living in England. I can't remember the year-- maybe 1832? Their names were Julie and Emily and they decided to come to America and set out for Utah. The trip to get from England to New York took six weeks. By the time they arrived in New York, like most others on that journey, they were already somewhat malnourished and exhausted. These two women, ages 20 and 22, joined up with a single mother and her five children. They loaded all of their belongings onto a single handcart and started pushing their way from Illinois to Salt Lake City-- some 1600 miles. On foot. Not in good physical shape. With terrible shoes and not enough food. The blisters on their hands and feet. No sunscreen. I can't even fathom. Along the way, they encountered Indians that wanted to kill them, rattlesnakes, disease, wolves, and, it gets far worse, terrible storms. By the time they got to Wyoming, some 100 of the 500 in their handcart company had died. And that was the easy part-- in Wyoming they encountered a horrific blizzard. Alone, in the mountains-- no food, shelter, adequate clothing, medication. Nothing.

At one point, Julie sat in the snow and refused to get up. She wanted to die. Many of those on that journey no longer had shoes or, if they did, wrapped up the remains of their shoes with anything they could find. Many were literally starving to death. At this point, they gave up hope and waited for death with open arms. Anything to stop the suffering.

...And then they saw an angel. He wasn't really an angel but he must have looked like one. It was a man, the first of several more, who had left Salt Lake City on a mission to rescue the handcart company. Brigham Young had gotten word that the handcart company had left Illinois far too late in the summer and were stranded in Wyoming with no food or supplies. He sent a rescue team. When this angel found Julie in the snow, dying, he handed her an onion. She got off the ground and found an older man, shivering by a fire, and gave him the onion. He ate it and it saved his life. He ended up getting up and making the rest of the journey. So did Julie and Emily. (I look at my two daughters, Morgan and Siena. Would they give a dying man an onion when they, themselves, were starving, too? I think they would. My daughters are the most thoughtful and selfless girls. But I digress. Back to the story...)

While the rescue team arrived, it's not like all 400 survivors had it made. They still had to get up and walk-- keep moving until they reached Salt Lake. None of us can ever imagine how difficult it must have been.

And that's the point of tonight's blog. Hope. Hope is so powerful. When the pioneers had given up hope, they could move no more. They were done. And when the rescue team arrived, they still have to find just enough energy to move forward. But this time they had something they didn't before-- hope.

That's how my battle with myeloma can be summed up. I have hope. And faith. I will win this battle. Because as long as I have energy, support, medications, great doctors, and there are more drugs in the pipeline, I have the WILL to win this battle. Hope is so powerful. It's an amazing feeling. It gives me tenacity, resilience, and strength.

My ancestors were strong, amazing, faithful people. I look to their example as I continue every day. I still visit my grandparents' gravesite often. I look to their examples-- examples I remember well growing up. They set the stage for the strength I have in overcoming my challenges-- whether they be my cancer battle, making it through my abusive marriage, and never caving during my divorce. When I was in transplant, even in the hardest parts of my treatment, those traits helped me every single time I needed to drag myself out of bed.

And even still today-- when I feel tired, weak and scared, I come back to that word. Hope.