Years back, I was hired to produce a video that featured people in the throes of battling cancer. On the day I was to interview them, I braced myself to be depressed. To my surprise, their wisdom uplifted me.
Each of them had committed themselves to enjoying however many days were left to them. To my amazement, they spoke of cancer as a blessing.
Nine years ago, I joined their ranks. In 2007, I was diagnosed with cancer. Like the brave people I had met long ago, eventually cancer lent me wisdom that continually enhances my life.
Here are the first three of the many blessings that cancer taught me:
1. Staying focused and positive leads me to my highest self.
I learned this as I waited for my illness to be categorized and quantified. Day and night, night and day, I lost a lost a lot of sleep as I obsessed: how did I get cancer? how could I get rid of it? how would I ensure that it never touches my life again? how might it hurt my loved ones? how might it kill me?
Desperate, I thought maybe I could detox myself. If the lump could be sweated out, hot yoga was the answer. Before then, I had figured that anyone who exercises in upwards of 105 degree is a nut. Crazy with fear as I was, that made it perfect for me.
Surviving the ordeal commanded laser focus. With each class, full length mirrors reflected my lesson: if, while I contort limbs into aching knots as I listen to sweat drenching off of me like rain pattering to my sticky matt and dwell only upon my misery as musty perspiration stings my eyes, I’m a mess. Conversely, if I feel positive down to my bones, I fare way better! Those ninety minute sessions of profoundly experiencing words like ‘happy,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘love’ led me back to sanity.
2. We all deserve to live.
Nonstop worry turned me into a bore. At the height of my self-absorption, I decided that because I had never accomplished anything extraordinary and probably never would, I didn’t deserve to live.
That melodrama rocked me — clear into cancer’s second wisdom for me. If cockroaches and fleas deserve to live, so do I. If I ever make some good kind of history, that’ll be nice. My ordinary mortal best, though, is enough.
3. Sometimes happiness is easy. Sometimes I must fight for it.
Constantly imagining the worst eclipsed all the color from my life until a wise cancer warrior visited me. She asked, “Who of us knows how long we have to live?! While you’re wasting your life making yourself miserable, someone you love could be getting run over by a car this very second!”
Her words continue to knock sense into me when I get too full of myself. I’m lucky for every morning I wake and for each night I go to sleep. Pursuit of what offers meaning to my life is all that matters.