It’s been a rough year or two. Pick up a newspaper, turn on the news, roll down the windows of your car at the stop light or scroll through your Facebook feed – and things can look pretty grim.

Tempers are shorter, patience is thinner and it seems everyone on the internet is about three clicks away from revealing that they’re a devastatingly awful human being. The ones we love are facing challenges that seem insurmountable.

But in the face of that, two conversations this week have moved me. They’ve helped me refocus on the courage, strength and wonderfully generous humanity that surround us.

When you work in a place like Cancer Hope Network, inspiration and courage are a daily occurrence. Coming here each day means we get to speak with people who are mucking through some of the worst days of their lives. It means partnering with patients and caregivers who have faced catastrophe.

What I saw this week was a focus on others at a time when it would be utterly rational to look inward. I saw expressions of care when it’d be absolutely appropriate to shout “LOOK AT ME! LET ME SHARE MY PAIN!” I saw good humor and a determination to find the silver lining in pretty awful situations.

The fine art of Life is.jpg“It sounds strange, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.” This, from a woman who had just returned from the hospital hours before. She’d discovered that her cancer had returned –the scans hadn’t come back clean and it’s time once again to plan her way forward. We discussed her treatment options – more surgery? more chemo? radiation on already thinning bones? – and talked through what’s important to her. She was honest about her pain, but despite the shattering news, reflected not on her losses, but what cancer has added to her life. “It’s given me a chance to right my wrongs. It’s helped me to know how loved I am.”

“You guys have sure been through a lot lately.”  This, from a volunteer who is struggling with her metastasized cancer and the latest treatments she’s using to fight it. From someone who counts time out of the hospital as a victory and celebrates just being close enough to the beach that she can feel salt air. Instead of focusing on her struggle to go to work or talking about the latest excruciating treatment she’s completed, she asked about my family, cared about our small victories.

In the face of this graciousness, hearing this strength from these remarkable women, I’m reminded that a rough year isn’t a reason to give up. A bad day is a challenge to find what’s salvageable and move forward. To keep caring.

And now, I share them with you.

Sarah Miretti Cassidy is the Director of Marketing & Patient Outreach for Cancer Hope Network.