Cancer Diary: Some things I’ve Learned

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If a person is going to go through something as crappy as cancer, there might as well be a lesson in there some place. (I suppose this could be the silver lining of the situation?)

When I first went through breast cancer twelve years ago, besides the initial shock, my predominating thoughts went to my beautiful two-year-old boy with his long hair and sunny disposition — just as any mother or father’s would. Would I see him grow up? How was it possible that I could be parted from him so early? It was nearly too much to bear. I can remember the waiting — waiting on results and pathology reports; the trip to pick out the Christmas tree the same day I received my initial diagnosis, and how surreal it all was, but there was my child to be strong for, and we – Husband and I — were strong. And everything turned out just fine, which I know it will this time.

But I learned about life the first time. I became more selective about who I spent my time with. Life is too precious to spend it with energy vampires and selfish, destructive people.

I learned to give praise and compliments freely. It’s not as if telling someone they look pretty today or how handsome they are in their suit will diminish your own value. Some people seem so reluctant to make others feel good about themselves, and I’ve never understood this.

I’ve also learned not to miss an opportunity to let someone know how much they mean to me or that I love them. (Okay. Maybe I’m a little mushy. Guilty.)

When someone is going through a hard time or loss, always let them know you’re thinking of them. Not some cliched platitude, but a simple “You’re in my thoughts,” is always appropriate. And if you say you’re going to pray for someone, do. Right then. Short, sweet. But don’t just say you will.

I learned twelve years ago that material goods are not so important to me. Working constantly is not where it’s at. At the same time, though, I do want to travel to Paris. So there is that quandary. (Okay. I want enough money to get by, and I want to travel to Paris.) Paris is especially on my mind after watching Midnight in Paris last night. If only I could go back in time to the 1920’s as main character Gil did and have one of my manuscripts critiqued by Gertrude Stein. (I wonder what she’d think about the one with the zombie teacher? I’m not sure, but she did seem like a pretty cool lady.) The writer in me loved the fantasy about nostalgia for a better time, but then Gil realizes that nostalgia is more of an escape from the present rather than the past actually being a better place. (Ain’t that the truth?)

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Life has been feeling very real lately. I mean, it has for a while now, but with this cancer’s return, it feels even more so. I’m not as scared as I was the first time, yet I’m giving up more. My body will be forever changed. These days, my embraces with my husband last longer; our love deepens; perspective is changed.

Our time here is short; we shouldn’t waste it. (Whatever that means to you.)


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