The Gifts of Cancer

Friday, February 26, 2010 8:53
Posted in category Cancer

I recently read an article that made my soul weep. The author shared what cancer had cost him. Reading his words reminded me why I chose not to join a support group when I was being treated for my own cancer. I needed to surround myself with the most positive people, events, foods, experiences, books, music and movies I could find. I had no time for people or even one person who would bring me down.

I would never willingly choose to go through this experience again, but if I did, I’d count it yet another blessing. I’d like to share some of the gifts I received because of my cancer.

As is the case with many writers, one of my first and enduring loves is reading. When I went through chemotherapy, my vision would easily blur and nausea ensued if I tried to read anything longer than the Sunday comics. One of my best friends solved this problem for me. On Sunday afternoons, Colleen came to our house, made a pot of aromatic apple cinnamon tea, and sat down next to me under a cozy quilt (I was always cold) to read “Beauty: The Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley She warmed me, body spirit, and soul.

I received chemo treatments on Fridays at noon. This enabled me to get my treatment and go home for the afternoon to recover. Then I’d have two days before I went back to work on Monday. As soon as I got home from the doctor’s office, I put on some upbeat music like Gloria Estefan’s album, “Into the Light,” sat in my recliner, leaning back with my eyes pressed closed to keep the room from spinning, and chanted my favorite mantra, “Tomorrow is Saturday. I will be well. Andrew and I will go to the park. Tomorrow is Saturday. I will be well. Andrew and I will go to the Park.” I was able to do this because on Fridays dear friends of ours took turns having our very active young son for the day. My Friday was quiet and uncomplicated. We never hid anything from Andrew, but we all needed a break from each other during this time. Beverly, Grace and Glyn gave me the gift of time to recover my composure and my body.

At the time I was diagnosed, I was working as a “temporary” and had applied for a permanent position with a company. The company told me that they would hold my position open until I’d had my surgery and recovery. They gave me the gift of financial stability, health insurance that covered pre-existing conditions, and flexibility to work my schedule around chemo and then daily radiation.

The entire first month after surgery, members of our church dropped by every afternoon. Some would stay to chat with Greg or me. Some were on their way home from work and were in a hurry. All of them left an entire dinner from soup to nuts on our dining room table. Greg had transitioned in the months prior to that to be our “Stay at Home Dad” and hadn’t learned the finer arts of meal preparation. In addition to the meals, these friends also left the recipes for what they brought so that he had a resource for future meals.

I had worked for a short time for Fran’s chocolates in Seattle. Many people sent flowers, Fran and her staff sent chocolate with a note saying, “It couldn’t hurt!” It renewed my spirit! As much as I loved the flowers (believe me, I LOVED the flowers, the gift of chocolate said, “Keep living. You have a special treat to eat.” Fran and friends gave me a healing message and one that I give myself to this day. I used to laugh when I read the phrase, “Life’s short. Eat dessert first!” Now I embrace it in every part of my life. Life is short and if we always wait until after we’ve done the ‘have to dos’ we never have room for fun and frolic and chocolate.

As I was writing this Greg reminded me that there were plenty of negatives that went on during that time. We chose not to dwell on them. We gave them to God and went on with our lives. I have a loving husband and son, friends that helped at the drop of a hat, a job for the last ten years that has been the highest paying, with the most generous benefits of any company I’ve ever worked. I have to tell you what cancer gave me, not what it cost me.

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