No matter who you are, cancer has surely impacted your life in some way. You probably hate it and wish scientists would find a cure already. And I would have to agree with you. Cancer hurt me. It caused unimaginable pain, suffering, anxiety, heartache, and fear. It royally screwed things up.
If it weren’t for cancer, I would still be married to the love of my life. We’d probably have at least three or four children, my husband would be finished with his PhD and would be working as a professor of economics, I’d be a stay-at-home-mom, and we would be living the happily ever after we dreamed about. Cancer took that all away from me, from us, from our families. My husband never got to be a professor or a father. We never got to be parents together, celebrate 50 years of wedded bliss together (or even five for that matter), and we’ll never know the joy of growing old together in a nursing home, beaming with pride at our children and grandchildren.
But, in the spirit of “all will be well,” I’m finding a silver lining. Here are 3 ways cancer changed me for good:
01. Cancer strengthened me. It strengthened my faith, my marriage, my friendships, my patience, and my resilience. In the years my husband suffered through all-things-cancer, we were repeatedly confronted with hurdles and barriers that kept us from living the normal life we so desperately desired. As a result of these challenges and the team-work they required, I fell humbly in love with my husband, grew more deeply in my Faith, and developed stronger friendships with countless supporters along the way. We built a network of acquaintances and even strangers who now feel like family. We stood up to each challenge and loved through it. We came out stronger, happier, and more fulfilled on the other side.
02. Cancer inspired me. Just turn on the news today and you’ll be inclined to presume the worst of humanity. Stories of war, violence, back-stabbing, and hatred consume so much of the media. In the world of cancer survivors, fighters, supporters, and caregivers, it is easy to see that there is still goodness in the world. The cancer community is one full of love, sacrifice, compassion, and kindness. People are good. Dan fought through some terrible treatments, surgeries, procedures, and complications because of the goodness of people. People gave him something to fight for and a resilience to get back up after each stumble. Cancer can bring out the best in people and has inspired me to keep spreading that love, building those relationships, supporting the fighters, and honoring those we lost. Cancer inspired me to prove that love is stronger than hate.
03. Cancer gave me perspective. Before cancer, I had heard clichés warning me not to take life for granted or urging me to live it to the fullest. I recognized their merit and then attempted to put them into practice in my own life. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed life, but, it wasn’t until my recent experiences that I gained the appreciation I have now. Cancer plunged me to the lowest lows, but I have cancer to thank for lifting me to the highest highs. While the most horrific moments of my life revolve around cancer, the most euphoric moments do, too. I thought I knew fear until a doctor sat me down and told me “the next 24 hours will be critical” and that my husband may not “make it” after a diagnostic endoscopy during a visit to the emergency room. I thought I knew joy until Dan almost didn’t wake up, only to open his eyes and smile at me after days in a medically-induced coma. Life changes in an instant. Cancer gave me the perspective to live it more fully and love the people in it more sincerely.
Cancer changed me, for good. I don’t know who I would be today if cancer hadn’t invaded my life. Sure, I could write for weeks about why I hate cancer, how it shattered my hopes and destroyed my dreams, or how it continues to bring about an intense loneliness that, sometimes, is simply too much to bear. Yes, cancer can, and sometimes does, destroy the spirit, but if that happens, it wins. Refuse to let it win. Rather than surrender to the loneliness, hurt, and suffering it inflicts, continue the fight to defend love and happily-ever-afters.
Whatever the “cancer” is in your life, don’t let it destroy you. If you search hard enough, you’ll find a lesson of love, joy, and resilience. Stand up to the challenge and become stronger. Look for the goodness in others and become inspired. Take the perspective that shows you real beauty in life and cherish it, because, at the risk of sounding cliché, life is short; don’t take it for granted and live each day to the fullest.