A Mother and her Two Daughters

01 February 2011

Life as my Teacher – Not Cancer

In 1989, the famed SNL comedian Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer at the age of 42.  While battling her own illness, she openly shared her story of disease with those who cared to learn.  Radner’s answer to cancer was healing the body with mind and heart. 

Before her death, Radner would say, “If it wasn't for the downside, having cancer would be the best thing and everyone would want it.”   Following her death, her husband Gene Wilder would say, “That might be true, if it wasn't for the downside.”

Cancer and the after-effects of cancer treatment are life changing, totally rearranging the game of life.  For me, breast cancer has been about a body completely void of hair, bloating from steroids, exhaustion never experienced, vanity that steers you away from mirrors, industrial-strength chemo that has lifelong side effects, the total numbness of my chest where natural breasts used to be.  It’s about a myriad of emotions – from absolute fear to a feeling of weakness never before experienced.  And even today, I know that my level of activity must be curtailed, as I simply don’t have the energy or stamina I once had.

But today I am well, I’m cancer-free, and this yearlong journey has taught me a few lessons along the way.
  • I’ve learned that self-confidence and a sense of femininity have nothing to do with your breasts, your eyelashes or your hairstyle.  A sense of loss (even your breasts) can be overcome, false eyelashes were invented for a reason, and there are some very beautiful hats that can cover a bald head.
  • Tim taught me over and over again, “The only way to survive this cancer is to deal with whatever the day dishes out – the good, the bad and the ugly.”  I’ve also learned that no matter the circumstances of life, a sense of humor can make everything, even the ugly, feel a bit more tolerable.   
  • I’ve learned the difference between being strong and having strength . . . A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey, but a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong.
  • Today I know that cancer kills too many people. I remain mindful that there were those I shared the oncology clinic with, those who sat next to me during chemotherapy treatments, who lost their life to cancer.  With 1 in 4 Americans ultimately be diagnosed with cancer, we must speed up this scientific mystery and find a way to prevent cancer from ravaging our bodies. 

A long time acquaintance told me this past year that cancer could be a gift if I knew what to do with it.  Are you kidding me?  A gift from who?  I say “HOOIE” on that. I never asked for cancer, I never liked cancer, and I was never glad to have it.  But I’m confident that the biggest lessons I learned DID NOT COME FROM CANCER.  Instead, they came from living life my way.

Shelley Lewis, a veteran broadcast news producer said during her own cancer battle, “Cancer didn't teach me lessons that changed my life—my life taught me lessons that changed my cancer experience.”  I could not agree more. 

Cancer did not give me a sense of comfort or assurance.  I was given this gift from God when I lost my husband to a drunk driver when he was 30, and only three weeks after the birth of our daughter Allyson.  For the past 23+ years,  I have felt Him in my life and have turned to Him for help in the midst of life’s storms. Life Lesson: God is good

Cancer did not teach me that mortality is real, and that death for us all is imminent.  I’ve known that since 1987 and have tried to be mindful that today could be my last day or your last day here on earth.  Life Lesson: Mortality is real.

Cancer did not teach me that the comfort of family and friends  sustains you through the tough times.  I’ve known that my entire life.  People give me energy – they always have, long before cancer.  It has been the love and emotional sustenance of family and friends that keep my spirits high every day and every year.  And yes, their love the past twelve months has been especially meaningful.  Life Lesson: Authentic love is the most powerful gift we can share with one another. 

Cancer did not teach me that every day is a special gift from God.  I’ve long known that.  Yesterday I shared the elevator with a woman grumbling about how she hates Mondays.  I thought to myself, “I love Mondays, and Tuesdays, and Fridays and Mondays, and every waking day of life.”  Yes, cancer put it back into perspective, and every morning I am thankful for the sun and even the rain, and I give thanks for the new day.  Life Lesson: Every day can be a good day. 

While I’ve learned a few things from cancer, rest assured, I’ve learned much more from the lessons of life.  And they have served me well throughout this journey. 

Life Lesson:  LIFE is good. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Web Statistics