What Having Cancer Can Do
It can show you what true love is.
It can teach you how hope can become reality.
It can foster faith, lead to inner peace, make your friendships deeper.
It can enrich memories, steel your courage, move you to your very soul.
It puts your eyes beyond the moment, and makes of you a creature of everyone and everything before, here and beyond.
I wrote the above in response to a posting from a friend on Facebook I had seen before, about what Cancer cannot do. The timing was interesting when I read her post because shortly before I had spoken with a 42 year old client of mine who tomorrow is scheduled for a mastectomy.
The physical loss that she is facing has frightened her to her core. So much of who we are has been tied up in what we look like. She worries that she may lose her hair (if they determine she must have chemo). She worries about reconstruction after her breast is lost. The road ahead is full of uncertainties, but one thing is certain, after Friday, nothing will be the same.
She’s says she is glad to talk with me because I have been there. I feel inept at making the worry go away. All I can do is listening and understand and tell her what I feel today 16 and half years after I faced my agony of waiting for my life to change forever.
There's nothing fun about Cancer. No one wishes it on anyone else. And there are ignorant people who have some sort of personality flaw that makes them compelled to say stupid things and hurtful things to people in the most vulnerable times in their lives. But there are also those who lift you up, surround you with nothing but pure love.
The lessons you learn about yourself, about your personal strength, your faith and hope, your tenacity and determination all lead you to a place where you accept and love yourself more than you ever believed was possible. At least it did for me.
You realize life is so much more than what you see in the mirror, what clothes you wear, the color or existence of your hair. Life is rich and full. It is full of yesterdays and tomorrows. Life is so precious it is meant to be fought for with everything in your being. You come to believe life is not a gift it is your innate right and it is up to you to protect it and defend it.
And you realize there is so much we cannot see that is real and powerful. You can "feel" people through the miles who pray for you and send you light and strength. You know you are part of something much bigger than yourself.
For me to talk about Cancer and what it does or doesn't do is an exercise in gratefulness. Without Cancer having touched my life, I may have learned all these lessons in another way or maybe I never would have. The moments I have spent in my life missing the body I had before Cancer have been trumped by the person I have become because of Cancer.
Standing on the outside of a day in which so much of what you felt defined you is to be taken away, be ready to accept the things that will come that will enrich you. It is right and understandable to mourn the loss of a breast or a head of hair, or your control over the things around you. But life, in the face of loss, has a way of awakening (if you let it) unimaginable goodness. And for me, those things and people who have brought them that have transformed me.
Would I wish I never had Cancer. I wish no one would ever have Cancer and that is why I walk. But is there a day that I don't thank God for the life I have discovered SINCE I had Cancer, no. I walk because I celebrate life. I walk to rejoice in the person I have become. I walk because Cancer made me a fierce and powerful warrior and for that, I am grateful. And I walk, because when I do, I walk alongside thousands who have found their power in the face of Cancer.
My prayers are with Eleni for tomorrow that when she wakes up from the surgery she is surrounded by the love strength and knowledge that everything will be alright.
It will help me on mile 59 to know, you are one of those people who "get it".
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On the road to the 3 day - Leslie, Olivia and Patty!