“Just words?”

It is a rhetorical question Senator Barack Obama asked of Senator Hillary Clinton when she criticized his “flowery” speeches.

The point was made that such words as “I have a dream” and “all men are created equal” have tangible power to affect the listener and cause a reaction.

I would like to add another sentence to this list of powerful words: “I have had 10 treatments … only 18 more to go!”

These are the words of Joy Karp in an e-mail to me two weeks ago. They had the power to floor me.

If you read her first-person account in the first issue of our health paper, How Ya Feeling Yukon, or you have lived in the Yukon for more than a few months, you know that Joy Karp is in Vancouver right now to rid herself of cancer.

Some of us know what radiation therapy is like and the rest of us can only imagine. Those of us lucky enough to only imagine, must now imagine the positive nature of someone who can say, “only 18 more to go” and then end it with an exclamation point.

We can’t. And yet there it is. That is the power of Joy’s words.

Two hours later, I received an e-mail from someone who told me she cannot finish reading Joy’s story in How Ya Feeling Yukon. But if Joy could write the words, then she will, some how, read them.

She wrote to me because she felt bad that she could not send Joy her good wishes on the message board that we had set up.

She went on to explain her own battle with cancer. She used words as a way to lighten her load, to place some onto my shoulders. I accepted this load gladly because that is what you do for friends … and we are friends now because how could we not be when such an emotional understanding has been reached.

Lightening a load. A new friendship. Power. It is the power of words.

I wonder how many other connections had been made after people read Joy’s words. How many people understand, just a little better, what their loved ones are going through? How many understand that their own feelings and behaviour really are not out of the ordinary?

Perhaps there are those who have been recently diagnosed with cancer and have been comforted by Joy’s words. They now know what to expect and are not as afraid; they know that a strength will come to them just as it came to Joy.

Knowledge is power.

On behalf of What’s Up Yukon, How Ya Feeling Yukon and How’s Business Yukon, I thank Joy for sharing her story … her words. These words have caused ripples that we can only imagine.

I have since received another email from Joy. She wanted to tell me what the message board meant to her, but she could not find the words. A vacuum is a powerful force of nature when it remains unfilled … and so are words not spoken.