You might wonder what there is to be grateful for about cancer, and my answer would be: PLENTY. Sure, I’m not grateful that I have cancer, nor grateful about the impact on my body or my longevity, and certainly not grateful about what this is doing to my family, but as long as I have it, there are many days where the glass is half or more full.
So, here’s my list:
I am grateful for:
- Being reminded of the love and support of family and friends. Nearly every day, there are large and small acts of kindness by those I love that make me realize just how damn lucky I am. Whether it’s a package of “chemo goodies” from my daughter or a fuzzy blanket to wrap up in after surgery from a friend who lives across the country or the simple text messages I get from my amazing sisters-in-law checking in. Literally not a day goes by without these reminders — just in case I’m too dense to realize that I’m surrounded by real and virtual hugs.
- Old friends whom I’ve not seen in years who just show up at my doorstep with a pile of books for me to read, and new friends — especially those who have travelled this road before me — who are there for me without question. And I’m grateful for the old friends who introduce me to the new friends.
- The gift of incredible clarity about what is important in life. The blinders really do fall away with a cancer diagnosis, and all of the little crap that used to swirl around in my brain just falls to the bottom like sand, and what’s left are the true priorities — life, health, love, family. It’s amazing there was any room in there for the important stuff before given how much time I spent thinking about things like who said what to whom at work, or my endless to do list, or the little projects around the house. My new to do list has one item — get through this — and that won’t be possible without life, health, love, and family.
- The end of guilt. I was raised by two parents who had graduate training in Jewish guilt. I felt guilty about saying no, ending relationships, asking for a raise, advocating for myself — you name it. I have found that with cancer that guilt is gone, and that probably comes from being exceptionally clear about my priorities. I’ve had to ask people who can’t seem to get out of their own way to be supportive not to call me. I’ve been able to make the decision (with the advice of my doctors) to spend the last part of my work life on medical leave. It’s so simple, and may seem so clear, but it took cancer for me to see it.
While I would love a life that did not include cancer, the life that I do have with it is simpler, and filled with considerably more gratitude.