A Message from My Marine

A Message from My Marine

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

A Message from My Marine

My chemotherapy and radiation treatments were finally over, and I had begun the long, slow process of physical, emotional and spiritual healing. I continued to have a great deal of pain from one of the chemotherapy drugs, and my oncologist told me it could be many months before the pain subsided. The throbbing in my bones was a constant, annoying reminder that I was not yet fully recovered.

During this time, my older son joined the United States Marine Corps. Initially I was disappointed that he had chosen not to go to college right away, and, of course, I was worried for his safety, but I was also immensely proud of his decision and his courage. The day I saw him graduate from recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, is one of the proudest days of my life.

During his training at Parris Island (one of the most grueling of boot camps in the armed forces), he sent me a letter describing some of what he was experiencing. He told of the biting sand fleas that infested the island. He told of ten-mile training runs in sweltering heat and humidity and the resulting blisters on his feet that broke and bled. He told of taking a pounding from another recruit in a boxing exercise.

The most amazing thing about the letter, however, was that not one word of my son’s detailed account held even a hint of complaint! He was clearly (and deservedly) proud of himself and his fellow recruits, and marveling each and every day at how much discomfort and even excruciating pain they could withstand. He was on a journey of self-discovery, testing his physical and mental limits, and reaching beyond them.

The letter ended with these words: “Mom, remember that pain is just weakness leaving your body.”

What powerful words those were! I clung to them and made them my mantra. I wrote them on an index card and taped it where I could see it every day.

With the words of my son’s letter and the attitude they mirrored, the way in which I looked at my pain shifted. It no longer meant that I was ill. It meant that I was alive, and that weakness and disease were leaving my body.

From the day I received that letter to this very minute, I have found discomfort and pain of every kind to be easier to bear if I just remind myself of my son’s brave words and courageous spirit.

Kathy Cawthon

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