I’ve found myself on a pediatric oncology floor more times in this past year than I ever imagined I’d spend there in my entire life. Life has a way of doing that, putting you in places you never wanted to or imagined you’d ever have to be, as if trying to humble you, to remind you how small you are, how far you are from being invincible.
I was put here for the first time in September by a jumbled mess of love, rare tumors, options, better options, and most of all, irony. I’ve been there approximately one week out of each month ever since.
This week happened to have one of those dreaded marks on my calendar, and a countless amount of my hours were spent in the quiet and sterile room 2214 next to a guy who, in his health, and even his illness, has loved me so well for almost three years now.
These days are hard. They exhaust me in ways I’ve never experienced. Sure, it exhausts me physically, and emotionally, and sadly enough, even a little spiritually. But it’s an exhaustion that cuts even deeper. My whole soul feels tired and restless at the same time, like a little kid who didn’t sleep the night before a big vacation.
I spend these days sleeping in hard chairs, eating bad food, and watching cheesy game shows.
Poor me, right?
That’s exactly what I was thinking two days ago, smack in the middle of this event. I was sitting across the room from my sleeping boyfriend, and talking to his mom about just about anything that could stop the room from falling into its torturing silence again.
When silence eventually won out, and my mind started to run it’s fierce and dreaded race of thoughts, a sweet sound just down the hall pulled me back to that oncology floor.
I heard a little voice coming closer, and I looked toward the small window on the door. I began to recognize the tune the child was singing:
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”
My heart felt lightened at the sweet a familiar tune of Finding Nemo, and I kept my eyes on the door window, waiting to see the owner of the little voice as he got closer. Though I never saw the child, I saw enough to be moved by him.
Through the window, I saw a tired looking man smiling down toward the ground. He was walking beside and helping to guide an IV pole. On this pole I saw the clear IV bag full of clear fluid that I have always associated with IV’s, but hanging just above this bag was another bag, a bag I have only recently come to recognize. It too was a clear bag, but this bag was covered with another bag, a green bag of caution.
I knew the clear liquid in this bag was different than the liquid in the other. It was the reason I was there in the first place. That bag was full of poison, most likely a poison with a complicated name, designed to help cure and even more complicated disease.
It was full of Chemo.
This same kid made a couple laps around the floor, with his song, his dad, and his IV pole. He just kept swimming. His life was so short-lived with already so much pain. He was so small that his little head did not even reach the window of our hospital room door, but he just kept swimming.
And my heart was broken, but in the beautiful kind of way.
I’ve looked at this whole trial as a few hard months of treading the water, of kicking my legs and flailing my arms, and still not going anywhere, just trying to keep from drowning. This whole time I’ve been in the middle of this horrid sea refusing to swim, refusing to move forward, and refusing to realize that the waves and tides of life were pushing me toward something great, toward the end of one trial to a whole new chapter.
I refused to swim.
I think of the song Oceans, and I try to imagine what it might truly mean to be called out upon the water, and to find Him in the mystery, and to keep my eyes above the waves.
But the more I think about it, the more I believe that all of it, that faith alone, comes down to those three sweet words:
Just. Keep. Swimming.
I hope the sound of that young boy singing a song from a Pixar movie never leaves my mind’s ears. I hope it replays any time I feel paused, like I’m treading water. And I hope that for now on, no matter how rough the trial, how rough the waves, that I always choose to just keep swimming.
I hope that for you as well.