“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” -Gandhi
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt
November 8, 2015. A beautiful Sunday morning. A perfect day for our 5th year participating in the Heroes of Hope race, a 5k/10k walk and run supporting brain tumor research in the Los Angeles area. Team Kory made another strong showing this year. Twice a year I rally for “Team Kory” to get walkers for Heroes of Hope in November and riders for Tour de Pier in May. Both events near and dear to my heart. Both supporting brain tumor and cancer research, and both started by siblings who lost a brother to brain cancer. One of which Kory participated in twice, and one began the day after his passing becoming a lasting legacy of his spirit.
I cannot remember how we heard about the Heroes of Hope race five years ago. Irregardless, it gave Kory a goal to aim for in his recovery from brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation the first few months after his diagnosis in August. After the initial surgery, Kory had to relearn many physical tasks. His biggest challenge was to regain his balance and strength to learn to walk again. He had a team of caretakers and therapists working with him and against the effects of chemotherapy and radiation that continued to battle the cancer in his brain. These devoted professionals would not relent, and Kory made great strides in regaining these abilities. He possessed the strength. He possessed the courage. He possessed the determination. He showed NO FEAR.
On November 6, 2011, Kory completed his first 5k at the Heroes of Hope race as a brain cancer warrior.
A rainy, windy and cold Sunday morning. A miserable day for our 1st year participating in the Heroes of Hope race. Many friends and family members braved the weather to run/walk this 5k alongside Kory. It was an exhilarating and memorable event for all involved. The weather became a metaphor for the battle that was raging within Kory, and his success in completing the race the victory that will surely be his over this diagnosis. Poetic and Powerful.
That is the image I would like to remember. I would give anything to replace my reality with the description above. All true, yet not for me. While Kory possessed the strength, I possessed the worry. While Kory possessed the courage, I possessed caution. While Kory possessed the determination, I possessed hesitation. While he showed no fear, I was consumed by it.
The three long months prior to this race had stripped me of any delusions of “control” or “power” I may have possessed. Up until this point in my life, I had subscribed to the popular adage “God only gives you what you can handle.” If I can “handle” the hardship, than it is something that I can control, something I have the power to change or make better. I relied on my own strength and courage during difficult times, especially with all that we had gone through with our son, Dylan. All along thinking that God thought I could handle these trials, otherwise he would not have given them to me. Right?
What happens when you are faced with a challenge you cannot possibly “handle”?
A trial so big that you are rendered powerless to the outcome. As soon as I heard the diagnosis, Glioblastoma Multiforme, and then the prognosis, terminal, I knew God had made a mistake. This was too much for me or Kory or our family to bear.
I watched as the crowd surrounding Kory that morning plowed through the driving rain, en masse, one motivated unit. With my four year old daughter in hand, I ran the opposite direction, toward shelter, toward the dry safety of my car. We would wait for them to finish. As the rain pounded on the roof of my car and the wind blew sideways, I started to get concerned about the welfare of my husband. My concern turned into worry. My worry turned into fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being completely powerless. Not just powerless over the weather and the outcome of the race, but powerless over what was happening to my life.
The curious thing about fear is that it can eat away the good parts of a person. In our frantic attempt to escape powerlessness, our fear can lead to desperation or despair. We lash out in blame and defensiveness trying to maintain a false sense of control over a situation.
Out of my rain streaked windshield, I saw a lone man running toward the finish line. Recognition struck, and I realized it was Kory’s caregiver. What was he doing running alone? Where was my husband? I wrapped Kailey in her rain coat and ran out to see what was the matter. He explained that he wanted to finish the race under a certain time. All I could see was RED.
Are you kidding me?
You are supposed to be protecting my husband!
You are not supposed to leave his side!
What if something bad happens to him?
My powerlessness turned into fear, which turned into anger that lashed out targeting whoever was in reach. The caregiver ran quickly back to Kory’s side, and I was left fuming. All rational thought had fled my mind. I didn’t care if Kory told him to run ahead. I didn’t care that there were twenty other strong healthy adults, including his physical therapist, running with him. In my mind Kory needed protection. He needed help, and I was powerless. I let fear dictate and corrode an event that I should have been celebrating.
I bittersweetly recall that day as, “The race where no man was left behind.” If I am to be truthful, it should be called, “The race where one scared Mama Bear was left behind.” Kory of all people urged me to stop being so afraid. I could see my fear was hurting him, our marriage, and soon our family.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6
When life gives you more than you can bear, God is there to carry you. We are not meant to “handle” whatever comes our way, because sometimes it is bigger and more difficult than anything we can imagine. God is our strength when we are week. He can withstand our rage and calm our fears.
Fear serves a purpose for survival, fight or flight. It is not an emotion that should be left to dictate and run one’s life. Fear corrodes and drains the good and the beautiful. Kory knew this by instinct. He demonstrated his fearlessness not through power or control, but through his faith, love and hope. He never gave up hope. Hope is a frame of mind that can combat fear. Hope feeds courage, and courage gives you the strength to stand up to and overcome your fears.
This scared Mama Bear is a work in progress. Much more to learn. Many more ways to be courageous. Telling my story. Living with hope.