I was scouring the internet for things to read and positive articles to make me smile one afternoon when I came across an article titled “10 reasons to be thankful for cancer.”
I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. Thankful for cancer? How could anyone be thankful for cancer? I, for one, am not. It has made me tired, sick, cranky and made me put thousands of miles on my car unnecessarily, thanks to treatments two hours away.
Nonetheless, I trudged onward and read.
But what I found was incredible.
The author wrote her 10 reasons for living with the disease. She talked about compassion, awareness, tranquility, love, peace, generosity, faith, friends, indulgence and milkshakes. And I have to say I identified with her, in more ways than one.
So, I give you my five reasons to be appreciative (thankful sounds wrong) for cancer, especially as I finish year two as a fighter instead of a survivor.
• Cancer reminds you everyday to focus on what really matters in life. When you find out you have cancer, every trivial thing in life appears only to be even more trivial. I’ve realized it’s not the coffee I want when I catch up with a friend. It’s the learning about my friend’s life and living vicariously through them.
• Cancer brings out the best in mankind. Through the selflessness of loved ones, especially my aunt who lets us bunk with her when we go for treatments, and the kindness of hospital staff, you truly see that there are very good people in the world. However, it is the small acts from strangers that really reminds you to see the good in everything. A card from someone who reads this column or a smile from someone on the street brings hope for the future. The majority of people who know what you’re going through rally round and give you everything they’ve got: love, hugs, a shoulder to cry on.
• Cancer makes you grateful for friends, near and far. As patients sit in an infusion room, where you get the IV chemotherapy, the outside world seems so far. Most hospitals are wireless equipped, so a quick check of Facebook, Twitter or any type of social media keeps the mind active. A message written from your friend goes into your Messenger app, and you’re back to being with friends. It keeps a smile on the face during some of the most grueling few hours of your week or month.
• Cancer allows you to figure out how strong you are. It’s a physically, emotionally and mentally draining battle everyday. Nevertheless, the sun rises, you put one foot in front of the other and move. Most times you smile, but most times you cry. And that’s okay.
• Cancer helps you remember to “just do it.” There’s nothing stopping you from living life, except fear. Many times, I’m in the car, reassuring my paranoid mother that “I have a life-threatening illness, driving in the snow doesn’t bother me.” I’m not advocating for being reckless, but do whatever makes you full of life. Call your parents, tell people you love them, dance around your room to music from your childhood, just because.
There are many things to fear, and cancer, I’ve learned isn’t one of them. The disease kept me from having a life focused around the negatives when I should be looking at the positives. It has given me hope and has made me realize how fragile life really can be.
In my last Beyond the Byline for 2016: From my family (who lets me go public with our antics) to yours, have a wonderful holiday.