Learning from Cancer by da-AL

Photo of daisy wearing glassesPhoto: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Years before I was diagnosed with cancer, an agency that facilitated emotional support groups for people with cancer hired me to produce a video for them.

The morning my partner and I gathered our camera equipment, I braced myself for an emotionally trying day. Listening to the stories of those battling to live, I did my best not to cry as I stood behind the lens.

By the end of the videotaping session, I felt uplifted by their strength — and mystified! How could many of them speak of cancer as a blessing?

In 2007, I too was diagnosed with cancer. At first, I was angry, sad, frustrated, and terrorized. It took time for cancer to reveal its lessons to me.

Photo of a group of mallard ducks walking Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Learning that happiness is worth fighting for has changed me profoundly. Early on, a sage cancer warrior recounted how a friend of hers dreaded when his cancer would kill him, yet he outlives many loved ones. The wise woman told me, “No one can predict how long they’ll live. We’re lucky for every day.”

Day and night, as I endured my illness being categorized, quantified, and treated, I obsessed over how I might have contracted it…how to get rid of it…how to never get it again…how it would hurt my loved ones…and on and on…

When I tried was hot yoga, the laser focus it demanded quieted my mind. The full length mirrors reflected how, if I dwell on what hurts and what I fear, then my yoga suffers. They showed me how, when I physically and mentally resonate words like ‘happy,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘love,’ possibility becomes reachable.

Photo of bee at purple flowers Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

It’s a wonder that my worrying didn’t kill me. Often I wondered if someone as ordinary as me deserved to live. Eventually, I figured that I’ve got as much of a right to breath as do cockroaches and fleas. And that I’ve got something to say, which is how this blog started (as did the two novels I’m writing!)…

Life is always a gift, and that includes all of our experiences.

Has illness taught you any lessons?

Cancer has Blessings: 3 of the 1st I learned by da-AL

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.

We all deserve to live
Thanks Folkert Gorter, SuperFamous.com


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!”

Thanks unspash.com Alex Wigan
Thanks unspash.com Alex Wigan

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.