Be Kind…Be Patient…And Smile

When I was diagnosed with lymphoma in November 2010, I made a promise—to myself, to G-d, to the universe. I vowed that if I were to make a complete recovery, I would never, ever, ever again sweat the small stuff, or be rattled by petty annoyances. I also pledged to use all my senses to experience life on a visceral level, rather than going through the motions in a preoccupied, disconnected state.

From now on, I would revel in experiences through which I had previously sleepwalked: the warmth seeping into my pores on the first sunny day of spring; the joy and wonder of a baby wrapping her soft fist around my finger; the decadent delight of a food coma brought on by a sumptuous meal; the satisfying crunch I hear when walking through piles of dried leaves on a chilly November day; the consuming love I feel when both my boys are home and the entire family squashes itself on the couch to watch National Lampoon’s Animal House (or some similarly silly movie). Cancer had slapped me upside the head and hollered, “I hope now you realize what’s really important in life.” I had no doubt I would straighten up and follow those instructions.

I’m sure you can guess what came next. Once my doctor declared me to be “cured,” I went back to my former life, in more ways than one. I could go out and run errands because I no longer had to worry about being exposed to other people’s germs. I could eat salad and fresh fruit again. I didn’t have to go to the hospital every day for radiation treatments. I could get manicures and pedicures, and go to the dentist (yippee!). Eventually I could walk around without a cap and not resemble an egg.

But it wasn’t just the rhythms and activities of my daily life, that reverted to the way they had been before a routine CAT scan showed a misshapen lump growing under my left arm. Little by little—like an icicle melting as the weather warms–my outlook, my attitude, and my ability to tolerate inconsequential irritations returned to their pre-November 2010 state. I became angry when the cable guy was an hour late and called the dispatcher, saying awful, condescending things to him.  When we went to see Hamilton, and the understudy (who by the way was excellent) was substituting for Lin Manuel-Miranda, I fumed for the entire show. Instead of being appreciative that I had hair again, I cursed its frizzy texture. In fact, I hadn’t learned much from my life-threatening illness.

I recently made the acquaintance of a young woman named Aubin Mandel. She was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on October 27th, 2016. Aubin is 37 years old and had become engaged shortly before her diagnosis. This past winter, she underwent five rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation. On February 14th of this year, she had major surgery. Two months later, in April, they found a new mass on her liver, later diagnosed as stage 4 metastatic cancer for which she is currently undergoing another round of chemotherapy.

Aubin is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is her optimism. She recently wrote a piece that she has graciously allowed me to share with you:

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

This quote really resonates with me, and is something I try and do everyday. Everyone leads a different life with different struggles. I believe we are all struggling in some capacity and I know for certain that we will all face adversity and hardship in our lives, some more than others.

I have been able to keep my hair, this round of chemo and the last, and I look relatively healthy. I hear it all the time: “Omg. You would never know!!! ” I am extremely grateful for this, for my own mental strength, to not be reminded every single time I look in the mirror, and for being able to go out and face the world and not be looked at and treated as “sick.”

From the outside, for people that don’t know my story, life looks pretty darn easy, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Life is difficult right now. I struggle, I feel terrible for weeks at a time, I get sad, I have sleepless nights, I am scared, I am confused, I get angry with life and for everything I have had to go through, and for everything that has been taken from me. A lot goes on behind closed doors that most people know nothing about. And this is true for ALL of us.

“We have NO idea what it took for someone to get out of bed in the morning, to look and feel presentable, and to face the day.”

Be kind and good to those around you. The taxi driver. The waitress. The barista. The person in line in front of you. Your spouse. Your friend. Your mom. Have patience. Be understanding. Be compassionate. And, smile. We all have the ability to bring light and energy into someone else’s day. What a powerful thing.

“We cannot change the cards we have been dealt, just how we play the hand.” I am beginning to embrace my journey when I view it as a learning tool for myself or an inspiration for others.”

I am thankful everyday for the people that show me kindness. ❤️🙏🏻

Round 4, here we go!!!!

I have read Aubin’s powerful words again and again and again. They inspire me, as well as cause me to reflect on myself. My friends and I often bemoan the fact that we are getting “so old.” We wish we were teenagers, or back in college, or new parents enjoying our sweet little babies. We want to look young and feel young, be attractive and energetic. Truthfully, youth is beautiful. However, thinking about Aubin reminds me how vain and foolish and superficial these yearnings are–and how lucky I am simply to be alive.

Aubin embraces everything in her life, both the good and the awful. For me, the takeaway message is this: When you spot a new wrinkle on your forehead, or turn away from the mirror so you don’t have to see the skin under your arms sagging like an empty pouch, don’t beat yourself up. The paunch many of us now have, courtesy of time and gravity, is not a calamity. In fact, we are in a way fortunate to be saggy and have cellulite and gray hair, as the following quote reminds us:

“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” (Anonymous)

–*–*–*–

To end on a lighter note, in my last post I promised to “translate” the acronyms in the sample conversation at the end of the post. So here we go…SFLR: Sorry for late response; AFK: Away from keyboard; NP: No problem; WU: What’s up; NM: Not much; CYT: See you tonight; SLAP: Sounds like a plan; GR8: Great; GTG: Got to go; POS: Parent over shoulder; TBC: To be continued; TTYL: Talk to you later. Thanks for reading.

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41 replies
  1. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Great essay, Rhonda. I’ll print this one out and keep it handy for when I need a powerful reminder about being present in the moment and keeping first things first.

    Reply
    • Rhonda Silver
      Rhonda Silver says:

      I am so touched by your comment. Thank you for reading and for being such a good friend. There’s a saying that nothing can equal the friendship with a childhood friend.

      Reply
  2. Sara
    Sara says:

    Well done. Smile more, acts of kindness, focusing on tthe positive.
    Never finished my comment about your last post-I think we sould get credit for using aconyms on notes. AGI F comes toond!

    Reply
    • Rhonda Silver
      Rhonda Silver says:

      I was really inspired by Aubin’s piece and felt a need to respond to it and let others read it. You are right–we did use acronyms in our notes. I don’t remember AGI, though.

      Reply
  3. SARI
    SARI says:

    This post is truly inspiring and I hope it stays with me for a long time. When the next annoyance gets me frustrated and fuming, I will think of Aubin and of you and try to do better. “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” This should be the official addendum to the Golden Rule. Thank you for writing this. I am sending it to others. KEEP THESE POSTS COMING!!!

    Reply
  4. margo
    margo says:

    I live by the sayings….don’t ask for anyone else’s life…the grass is not always greener..and in yiddish, don’t ask for anyone else’s peckal….
    we all have our issues and no ones is any easier than anyone elses…just different.
    Thanks for the reminder…
    and thanks for the translation on the acronyms!!!

    Reply
  5. Adrienne Chanatsky
    Adrienne Chanatsky says:

    i can feel your words coming straight from your heart…full of compassion, and a never ending sense of humor. keep it coming friend! xo

    Reply
  6. Mar
    Mar says:

    how many times have we all made “bargains”, tried to use a “mulligan” to do better and gently slide back. I admire optimism and try to keep it in my life. Thanks for the reminder, and keep smiling.

    Reply
  7. bunny Flanders
    bunny Flanders says:

    What a beautiful and inspirational piece. I understand and agree with all that both you and Aubin wrote. Thanks for sharing this!
    Love
    Bun

    Reply
  8. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    One of mt favorite expressions I tell my children when they are having a hard time of something is to find the joy in life. I know that often it’s difficult to look past what is happening to you right now but if you can dig down and find the good instead of the bad, it will make your life and ours a happier place. It seems they want a perfect life and we often don’t always get what we want.

    Reply
  9. Perel
    Perel says:

    Well, well, well … i see i am not the only writer in the family. Well done!! Your essay really touched me; it’s a subject i think of often. Whenever i start obsessing about aging and such, i remember the blog i once read, posted by an acquaintance who was fighting a losing battle against lung cancer. She wrote about seeing an elderly woman on the street and being jealous of her, because she knew that she would never get to be that age. So every wrinkle reminds me that I have the incredible merit to have lived long enough to achieve a wrinkle. I look forward to your next post!

    Reply
  10. Lois
    Lois says:

    Lessons I learned during my journey and live by now. You expressed them beautifully. A lot to think about and open up a discussion.

    Reply
    • Rhonda Silver
      Rhonda Silver says:

      Unfortunately, you and I have been through the same journey. It’s no fun, but as you say it does result in a more appreciative view of the world. Hopefully we are appreciative enough and won’t need any more “journeys.”

      Reply
  11. Chrystyna
    Chrystyna says:

    Thank you for this amazing post. I’m so sorry for all that you had to go through, and for what Aubin is going through now. I so appreciate your shining a light on both of your journeys – it definitely made me pause and be thankful for the things I take for granted.

    Your writing is beautiful, and I eagerly look forward to future posts

    Reply
  12. Amy
    Amy says:

    Very powerful words, Rhonda, and beautifully written. It is a good reminder for everyone, whether or not one is going through a devastating illness. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply