“Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, It cannot touch my heart, and It cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry-on forever.” Jim Valvano.
Last night, I was watching the greatest speech ever given at the ESPY Awards. In 1993, Jim Valvano gave a great inspirational and moving speech two months before his death from cancer. He told people to live life with enthusiasm, to laugh, to cry and to never give up.
Every day, I work with patients who are facing severe physical disabilities. Many of them have had abrupt neurologic changes from spinal cord or brain injuries or strokes. They are faced with the realization daily that things are not going to be how they used to be and they need to learn to live with their “new normal.”
I tell them that they are still the same person they ever were and “You got this”. The essence of their true being has not changed. When they’re laughing or crying or spending time with loved ones and experiencing all their human emotions, this does not change.
I can relate in a very personal way to my patients I’m talking to because when I was in high school I became paralyzed from the neck down while wrestling. I spent over a month in the hospital and many months after that in rehabilitation. I got to the point over the years through consistent exercise and activity that I’m able to hide the majority of my strength deficits. I have to admit though that at times I’ll still grieve the loss of some of my physical strength or ability to play my guitar.
Jimmy V’s speech reminded me that in the end, it’s not our physical abilities or disabilities that truly matter. As Jimmy V said,”To me, there are three things we all should do every day. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”