One of the most common “comments” I get from both friends and family is “Oh Joel, you are so strong; I could never do what you do.” I am sure that many of you, my fellow cancer survivors and partners, also have heard the very same comment.

I do not know about you, but I do not feel strong, at least no stronger than anyone else I know. The word strong, or strength, clearly does not refer to my body strength. Even in my younger years, I was no body beautiful. I struggled to do just 10 pull-ups and at my peak, I would have been pressed to perform eight or nine good push-ups. If I had to describe a personal physical strength, it was in my aquatic abilities. I easily passed my American Red Cross Water Safety Instructors certification; I worked for many summers as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. I could swim on and on, never tiring. Nevertheless, I have never been a strong person.

As far as my strength in fighting this cancer battle, I do not feel that I am any stronger than any other cancer survivor is. What most people are really talking about is the strength to get through another day and still smile and laugh. Mind you, you don’t have to smile all the time, periods of down time, depression are permitted, you just have to make sure that these times are minimized and don’t take over your life. I believe that most people do have this strength within their souls, they are just fortunate enough not to have to draw upon this strength. However, it is there, if they need it.

The people who are still trying to rebuild their lives after Katrina and the people who are now dealing with the aftermath of the floods in the Midwest, they are strong. You don’t know about your true strengths until you’re challenged. Some people are never challenged while others have an entire life full of one challenge after another. However, after meeting so many fellow cancer survivors, I have come to learn that most of us are much stronger than we ever gave ourselves credit. We can conq