Last night while on my computer I stumbled upon a twitter discussion regarding a blog post written by a breast cancer survivour. The topic was regarding cancer seen as a gift. The writer was of the opinion that cancer was not a gift, and that she'd much rather kick it in the ass than view it in any other way. It was plain as day that it was not considered a gift to her.
This got me thinking. I wrote back to her on Twitter, and mentioned that I, too, was a breast cancer survivour, and a blogger. I mentioned that I had written blog posts saying how much I had considered cancer a gift. Now I'm not inferring, by any stretch of the imagination, that I consider myself fortunate to have been hit with the big "C." Nor would I want anyone else to be fortunate enough to receive this gift.
I also wrote in my answer that I would have much rather been bopped on the head to be awakened, than to have experienced cancer, but that the result of having cancer changed my life, and this is why...
If I hadn't been through cancer and the subsequent treatments, I wouldn't know who my true friends were. The ones who stuck around, and were by my side because they truly wanted to be there. Now there are other ways besides cancer that can weed out the sunny day friends from the field, maybe something easier, like losing your job, getting a divorce or running into financial trouble; but cancer brings its own stigma with it. The ones who hold your hand while red toxic substances are streaming into your arm, hold you while you are throwing up, and just call you to remind you that they're there, are worth their weight in gold.
If I had been bopped in the head instead, I wouldn't see with the same vision today. My eyes were always open, but I couldn't see in front of me. There is so much out there that is beautiful beyond description. The water as you cross the bridge on a bright and calm day. The beautiful rainbow that appears after a torrential downpour offering tidings of joy and bright colours of promise. I may have been been able to see, but I was sleep walking through life. Going through my day to day routine with conveyor belt efficiency and with an end of day purpose.
If I hadn't had cancer, I would be living in quite the rich future. Dreaming of the things I would have, the places I would see, and the job with the corner office. Thing is, as good as it is to dream (and I have quite the fertile imagination that fuels my dreams), you will pass over what is right in front of your eyes. This "gift" enabled me to slow down and savour the moment. And there is so much to see and enjoy. Instead of living in anticipation, I live in adoration.
Living post-cancer has brought with it other riches. The enjoyment of cooking and learning to eat food that is nutritious. The need to meditate and centre myself at the beginning of the day. The awareness of my breath, and of my surroundings. All have been blessings in my life as a cancer survivor. Would I have discovered these things having been bopped over the head? Possibly yes, but not very likely. Even the continued love of running has more meaning since I've been through cancer, as I am so much more aware of the importance of exercise to my health.
Going through my cancer experience enabled me to understand the health care system and how it really works. It showed me how important it is to be your own health advocate, and to be on top of your own case. And in the times that it was all just too much for me, it taught me humility...that I didn't always have to do everything on my own. There were times where I had to bring loved ones to medical appointments with me, to take notes, or simply to hold my hand.
Although I have always loved my family, cancer made them more clear and brilliant. They were there for me all the way. How lucky is that? It could have been different, just like those rainy day friends.
Most importantly, cancer gave me the gift of strength. Where I was not always strong (or didn't think I was), being hit with this showed me just how resilient I am. It gave me the tremendous opportunity to be that all-important example to my girls, who were much too young to see their mother going through something like this. I showed them what it was like to get up after being kicked down. How to do it with grace and dignity, and with mountains of love. That is the gift I passed to my daughters, and I hope they will remember as they go through their trials and tribulations of life. They may have learnt something if I had been bopped in the head instead, but something tells me it wouldn't have been the same.