–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: Aug 20, 2019
My daughter is going over the edge … literally! I was recently asked to take part in Over the Edge, a fundraiser for The Victory Center, an organization that helps provide free programs and services to support cancer patients and their families. I often have been accused of having a difficult time saying “no” but in this case, surprisingly, that word came out of my mouth in seconds after being asked to rappel off a 16-story building in downtown Toledo. My middle child overheard my conversation and asked if she could rappel in my honor.
I think it is appropriate that the definition of the idiom “over the edge” is “to be in a mental or emotional state that makes someone completely lose control.” That, my friends, pretty much sums up cancer. My daughter Maria had a dream that I had breast cancer when I was 42 years old. I informed her that as a woman who graduated as a drug-free, alcohol-free, virgin, athlete, that I was in contention for receiving a tiara for my “good girl” lifestyle, I most certainly did not have cancer but I would get checked to ease her fears. I then received the news that immediately put me in the “over the edge” frame of mind. Your mortality dangles in front of you as you sway from surgeries to treatment to recovery, feeling as though your safety harness could give way at any moment. Thankfully, after over a decade of being cancer-free, I feel as if I have firm footing but still feel as if a massive tumble off a building could be a scan and a phone call away.
One thing that stuck with me after my cancer journey is that feeling of living on the edge. Believe it or not, I now find it a blessing instead of a curse. It has forced me to get out of my comfort zone and experience things I never would have if I were still safety strapped to the delusion that life is infinite and controllable. I have crossed things off my bucket list and changed many of my “what ifs” and “somedays” to “what’s possible.”
I have seen a moose in the wilds of Alaska, traveled Europe, pitched the SPANX and let it all hang out, and continually push myself out of my comfort zone. However, dangling off a building just isn’t something I have the desire or need to do. Helena apparently feels differently. I quickly discovered that cancer is not a solo experience. Your loved ones get sucked into its vortex as well. The good news is, that along with the 16-story high of negatives that come with the disease, my children have secured themselves to the need to live fully and purposefully concept after seeing me battle an unknown, uncontrollable foe.
Helena is a special needs educator. She has taught and positively impacted lives (sans toilet and running water) in a small village in Kenya. My girl is always up for an adventure and is the only woman I know who could survive in the wild or be put in a room with 29 high octane kids. She would emerge with the kids all smiles and unscathed after tethering their minds to the belief that they are capable of anything and everything. I know I will cling to this belief as I see my precious child go over the edge on my behalf. In the words of Christopher Logue, “Come to the edge. We might fall. Come to the edge. It’s too high! Come to the edge!
And they came. And they flew.”