Before I became a podcaster/blogger/novelist, I worked as a journalist, and sometimes produced promotional videos. Years ago, a non-profit agency that helps people emotionally deal with cancer hired my business partner and me to produce one for them.
The afternoon we were to tape a talk-therapy group, I braced myself.
As it turned out, these were no mere survivors. They were warriors committed to savoring every bit of 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 the camera’s lens gave way to smiles. Their stories, to my amazement, were filled with hope, gratitude, and acceptance. 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 witless. So freaked, that I couldn’t sleep for a month. Fighting with my insurance company and doctors added to the nightmare.
It took me time… a long while… to understand what those people had spoken of. Eventually, though, same as for them, cancer has indeed enhanced my life.
Here are only three of the many blessings 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. Questions tormented me…
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 alternative therapies such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs) 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 about what I could achieve 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 steady poses reflected back in those mirrors confirmed it.
2. All of us deserve to live.
Like too many other kids, especially little girls, I was raised to believe that my own needs were secondary to those of others and that I wasn’t smart enough to have opinions or make decisions.
At the worst of my ordeal, 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 easily. Other times it requires effort. Regardless, it’s always worth striving for. 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 a decade of being cancer-free, her friend continued to be anxious that cancer would strike again, this time fatally. Over those ten years, 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.”
Her wisdom allowed me to see that worry, if I continued to allow it, was sucking the vitality from my life worse than cancer ever could.
What has a challenge taught you?