Is Cancer a Gift?

Well, that depends on your outlook on life. Is the glass half empty? Half full? Pretty? Ugly? Heavy? Light?

Look, I’m no Pollyanna. I wasn’t a blithe happy-go-lucky person to begin with. I’m a definite Type-A personality. I’m a 14-year Navy veteran. I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I’ve had a total of 5 jobs from the time I was 14 until I turned 43 (and was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer). You don’t go where I’ve been by drifting along in this sea called life.

I’ve lost quite a bit due to cancer. I’ve lost family and friends who died of cancer. I’ve lost the possibility of holding down a full-time job. I’ve lost stamina. I’ve lost memory (chemo-brain is REAL y’all!). I’ve lost patience. I’ve lost my sex drive. I’ve lost my hair. I’ve lost friends who couldn’t handle me bald or in treatment. I’ve lost a big part of what I used to be. I’ve lost income and had to set my pride aside to go on disability. I’ve lost part of a breast. I’ve lost my love of chocolate.

Sure, I’ve gained some things from cancer. I’ve gained about 30 pounds (UGH!) over the past 8 years with cancer. I’ve gained some great girlfriends, and built strong relationships I wouldn’t have been able to before. I’ve been able to travel more. I spend more time with family. I’m attending a women’s bible study at church. I volunteer with a therapy dog team. I slow down and appreciate things more now, because death is much more real. I have a new will. My hair has grown back (and in some new places). I’ve had a garden this year (my tomatoes and okra did great; but the cucumbers and zucchini, not so much). I’ve even learned to cook.

So, now is the new normal. As the song says, “Live like you were dying.” Well, that’s a wake-up call isn’t it? I mean, who in their late 30s or early 40s is planning their own funeral? Who is writing letters to their child(ren) about life? About marriage? Yes, it’s people who have a terminal disease. My husband isn’t doing these things. My brothers certainly aren’t writing letters to their daughters about getting married, or raising a child. Even my parents don’t have a will finalized yet, although my in-laws do.

And with all that said, I’m learning and working and growing to appreciate what I DO have; to make the most of every day. I have choices to make. I can choose to do what I can, when I can or choose to be consumed with the cancer that invades my body. I can choose to be happy, or choose to be miserable. I can choose to exercise or choose to lay in bed. For the most part, I choose to be happy. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I am angry or scared about what’s going on inside me. Nor does it mean I am immune to depression nor anxiety. I have faith in God that his plan is enough for me.

At the end of the day, what I want to leave is memories, good memories of me with those I love. And for this reason, I choose to focus on the blessings I have in my present life.

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