Dealing with the “L” word

Photo from Public Domain Pictures


My grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago; my aunt was diagnosed just last year. In 2010, my mom discovered she had cervical cancer, right after my brother was born.

But I never lost anyone to cancer.

When I tried to think of something to write for this issue, I kept drawing a blank—daunted by the heavy circumstances in front of me. I kept thinking about how I had to write about something I could not make sense of—how could I have an opinion or any sort of credibility on something I cannot fully understand?

But then I realized something.

No one understands.

Cancer is such a complex idea itself, and loss is something every person experiences differently. No one can ever be someone else’s expert on mourning, accepting or losing.

But right now, there is a whole community of people who followed former Butler Men’s Basketball player Andrew Smith on his journey.

There are more than 2,000 followers on the blog, Kicking Cancer with the Smiths—an online journal created by Smith and his wife, Samantha, to catalog his triumphs and tribulations while battling his disease.

There is a whole campus of students, faculty and coaches who have stood with Smith over the years since his diagnosis.

There is his hometown, filled with family and friends, who have seen Smith grow up and fight through his circumstances.

My mom said something once, and I probably will not do it justice. She said we should celebrate the many years someone lived rather than continue to relive the one day he or she didn’t.

For Andrew Smith, it’s those four years he spent running up and down the court in Hinkle. It’s those almost three years he spent as a husband—and even more years as a loyal boyfriend before that. It’s those 25 years he spent delighting hearts and creating experiences with his friends, family and peers.

I did not know Andrew Smith, and I am not going to pretend that I did. Or that I understand what his family, friends, coaches and others in the Butler community are feeling.

But I have experienced loss.

I have never been one of those people that say, “He/she is in a better place.” That’s an assumption—a ploy to make everything seem “OK” that I have just never been comfortable with using.

I say the best place to keep someone is in our hearts—in our memories, on the court, in the classroom or in our homes.