: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
The idea for Resilience may have fallen into my lap when I was given my umpteenth pair of boring non-slip hospital socks, but it remained just an idea until my journey with cancer forced me to reconsider what I knew about resilience.
When I was diagnosed in May of 2015, I was wrapping up my junior year of college and knee deep in No Bad Apple, a project I had been working on for 2 years to make local and organic foods more easily accessible for busy professionals. As a first time entrepreneur, I was gradually adapting to a difficult learning curve and after two consecutive successful small scale pilots, things were looking up for us as we geared to open on a larger scale for the upcoming fall semester. Cancer, in my opinion, didn’t really have justification to disrupt those plans.
After proving to myself and family that I was tolerating the chemotherapy well enough to return to school, I drove down to Wake Forest University to begin the balancing act of running a business, biweekly chemo, and being a student. Walking a thin line between resilience and stupidity, the weekly juggle took a toll on my physical and mental capacity; but all things considered, I felt like I was managing it well.
Then, just after midterms I received a call from my doctor alerting me that the most recent PET scan showed the lymphoma clusters in my chest continuing to grow despite the chemotherapy. We had to begin a more aggressive plan. She then very frankly explained to me that due to the intensity of the new treatment plan and frequent hospitalizations, the rest of the semester would have to be put on hold.
I thought I knew what it meant to be resilient, I thought resilience was about persevering through trying times.
When I returned to school that fall, I resisted telling many of my classmates about my diagnosis because I didn’t want to be pitied. In my mind, part of this challenge was not only about sustaining inner strength, but also managing how others interpreted my well-being. Was I scared to be vulnerable? Yes.
What I misunderstood is that resilience isn’t necessarily about persevering through trying times on your own. When you’re sick, you are vulnerable whether you want to admit it or not. Don’t get me wrong, being independently strong is absolutely essential to your recovery. After all, what other choice do you have when you’re hospitalized for weeks at a time watching your muscle atrophy, losing so much strength that you have difficulty standing up? When you’re looking at yourself in the mirror day after day and not so gradually your hairless face becomes bonier, your eyes more sunken, what choice do you have but to stare into the depths of your soul and question what strength you have left?
While Resilience may begin with the self, it doesn’t end there. Occasionally, day after day of staring into those sunken eyes, doubt will creep in—it is merely a product of our human nature. Doubt that challenges the very essence of who you are as an individual, doubt that questions whether or not you have the strength to defeat a disease killing you from the inside out. It’s at these moments when we’re most vulnerable, and it’s at these moments when we need external support to bolster our resilience. For me, it was a letter from a professor, it was a group of friends driving 1100 miles to give me a hug, it was an absurd music video created by siblings and cousins, it was a pair of socks, reminding me what it felt like to be loved and letting me know that despite the dilapidated state of my body and mind, I had others fighting to lift my spirit.
The Resilience project is about fighting to become stronger. Stronger in body. Stronger in mind. Stronger in spirit. It’s about embracing terrible circumstances to learn and grow as a person. It’s about sending support, love, and of course, awesome socks, to someone that needs it.