Holidays and increased pandemic restrictions got you down? Hopefully, this tale of hardwon positivity will give you a boost to “keep calm and carry on.”
I’ve always been a writer, but before I became a novelist, I was a journalist. Years ago, a non-profit agency that helps people deal emotionally with cancer hired my business partner and me to produce a video. The afternoon we were to tape a talk-therapy group, I braced myself.
Turns out, these were no mere survivors. They were warriors committed to squeezing all the wonderfulness from every moment they had left. Those people, sick as they were, regarded cancer as a blessing.
To my mind, they were kidding either themselves or me. Nonetheless, the tears I shed behind my camera lens gave way to smiles by the session’s end. Their stories, to my amazement, had uplifted me. I left certain they were made of far sterner stuff than me.
Forward to some years later… In 2007, I was diagnosed with cancer.
To put it mildly, I was scared shi…er…witless. So freaked that I couldn’t sleep for a month. Fighting with insurance and doctors added extra hell to the nightmare.
It took me time… a long while… to understand what those people spoke of. Eventually, though, same as for them, cancer has enhanced my life.
These are only three of the many blessings that cancer imparted to me:
1. Staying focused and positive leads me to my highest self.
Round the clock, I obsessed while I waited for my illness to be categorized and quantified.
How did I get this? How to rid myself of it? How do I ensure it never touches my life again? How will my illness hurt my loved ones? How much longer until I die?
In desperation, I thought a detox could be the answer. If the lump could be sweated out, then hot yoga might do that. Insane with fear as I was, suddenly the prospect of exercising in 105-plus-degrees sounded worth trying.
It took conventional medicine (which I complimented with many alternative therapies) to resolve my cancer — but hot yoga healed me in other ways. The laser focus needed to survive those initial classes renewed my spirit. The full-length mirrors taught me as much as the instructors did.
For one thing, when I thought only of how miserable I felt, I couldn’t do any of the poses. For another, if I did them while truly experiencing a positive word such as “healthy,” “happy,” “joy,” or “love,” I fared way better. My reflection confirmed it.
2. All of us deserve to live.
You might’ve already guessed from the above, I was raised (like, I suspect, too many other little girls and children in general) to doubt and re-doubt myself…
At the height of my frustration, I decided that because I had never accomplished anything extraordinary and probably never would, I did not deserve to live.
That rocked me — clear into the second wisdom that cancer imparted. Deciding I was no better than a cockroach or a flea made me realize if they deserve to live, so do I! My ordinary mortal best is enough.
3. Sometimes happiness comes effortlessly. Sometimes I have to fight for it, but it’s worth it. Life is meant to be joyful.
Perpetual dread that the worst was near eclipsed my life. Then I had the good luck to meet a volunteer for The American Cancer Society. She’d had cancer twenty years earlier and listened patiently to what I was going through.
Then she relayed the story of someone she knew. After ten years of being cancer-free, her friend still continually waited for cancer to hit again, and this time worse. In the meantime, several of that friend’s loved ones had passed away from accidents and natural causes. The volunteer reasoned, “No one can predict the future, not when we’re going to die or from what.”
I’ve never forgotten her words, how lucky each of us is lucky for every breath we take.
What has a seemingly overwhelming challenge taught you?