I was asked to write a blog post for a survivor website on what cancer has taught me and how cancer has changed my life. Also to address that cancer isn't a period but that it is a semi-colon or a pause.
As a planner, cancer has definitely had an impact on how I plan my life. Cancer was never in the plan, but since it has become part of my story I now plan around it's inconvience. Before cancer I always had my next vacation planned, which I worked around my job and of course my social calendar was always planned out several weeks ahead. However just because I have cancer doesn't mean I stopped
living which is why I still have vacations planned, I still work when I feel well and my social calendar is still full.
After being told I was in remission I felt like I could start planning my life again, but this only lasted 18 months. For the past 16 months I've been back on treatment. I feel like I can only plan my life one month, one blood test and one CT at a time. Every time I have a doctors appointment I have hope that the news will be good, but the last few months it hasn't been what I have expected or hoped. It doesn't mean that I stop living or give up. It just has meant that I keep moving forward, taking some detours and planning around my diagnosis while adjusting my life around treatment and the growing tumors.
I have learned through my cancer that every person has a trial. Some are seen, but most are unseen. One would never imagine that I have cancer just by looking at me. As a Physician Assistant I work when I can. I listen to patients tell me their issues and complaints and sometimes think to myself, if they only knew how insignificant their hangnail is in comparison to the tumors that infest my body. But then I'm reminded that their insignificant problem is significant to them and so it should be to me. I'm grateful that I have the strength to address their illnesses and that I can serve others in my employment. Because of the amazing physicians I have had who have shown me so much compassion, I've become a better provider, listener and definitely developed more compassion and empathy towards my patients.
I have had plenty of pity parties for myself, but I've learned to cry some tears, wipe them away and then go about enjoying life, dealing with the ups and downs of cancer and hoping and praying my life will be extended. It's ok to have bad days. But don't let those bad days turn into bad weeks or months. The best advice I was given just before starting chemo was from Marybeth my doctors nurse. She said, "Every day get up, get yourself ready for the day and if you feel bad then take a nap. But always get yourself up and ready for the day because you will feel so much better when you do." She was so right!
I have 12 nieces and nephews ages 9 to newborn whom I adore. Unfortunately they have to know the words cancer and chemo. Fortunately I can show them that cancer doesn't mean you have to have fear. I can show them what cancer can not take the most important things from us as a family which are joy, laughter, love and making memories. Despite cancer and chemo we continue to find joy while being together, we continue making memories and we laugh a lot. Cancer has taught our family more about love and service than we ever thought possible as we have grown together.
Cancer has taught me to not let little things get under my skin. I've
learned to quickly forgive and to ask for forgiveness when I am wrong.
Life is just too short to hold grudges or harbor hard feelings. It is
so important to work on strengthening our relationships with those
around us, because one never knows when their time is up. I try to not let small things fester and become big
things. I definitely am not perfect at this, but I try my hardest to be
kind, to not judge and to give people the benefit of the doubt.
I have learned to have greater faith and trust in the Lord's plan for me and I'm trying be humble by submitting my will to His. I love the quote by W. Mark Bassett, "Faith and trust in the Lord require us to acknowledge that His wisdom is superior to our own."
I hope that there will be a cure for me and that I will be able to look back in 5 years and see the better, stronger person I have become from the cancer chapter in my lifes story.