My sister Melanie wrote these words for a friend of a friend to sum up what she has learned from her experience with cancer. We all await the day when that word will prompt; "cancer? What's that?." This Christmas let's pray that the day comes soon when cancer is a historical reference and nothing more.
To my unknown friend,
In the world of cancer we are blood brothers/sisters. We are two people walking the same path, strangers brought together by circumstance. There are people who will tell you that cancer is the best thing that ever happened to them….I am not one of them. However, it is not the worst thing either. There are things that I have learned along the way. There are blessings that I don’t take for granted anymore. There is a reason for everything, I may not know today what it is, but there is still a reason. Below are some random thoughts that I wanted to share with you:
1. CANCER - it is a tough word. They don’t call it the big ‘C’ for nothing. Once you get used to the word in relation to ‘you’ it gets a little easier. It is not a death sentence anymore. Think about it – you probably know more people who have survived cancer than who have not.
2. There is no right or wrong way to deal with cancer. Whatever helps you make it through your treatment is the right way for you. Don’t worry about putting on a happy face for others – it takes too much energy. However, after you get through the shock you will find that there are many reasons to be hopeful if not happy. It just feels better to believe in happy endings!
3. Give yourself permission to have good days and bad days. No one gets out of this journey without running the gamut of emotions. Some days you will be afraid and pessimistic and other days you will feel strong and optimistic. Beware the middle of the night, when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep but you, that’s when you will think too much and sleep too little. But know that morning will come and the sun will shine again!
4. It is not your fault regardless of what you ate, drank, or did. It is the luck of the draw and you pulled the short straw. Don’t beat yourself up thinking about what you should/should not have done. Yes, we should all believe what our bodies are telling us. We should pay attention to symptoms and signs. We should go to the doctor sooner. Ok, we know this now so let’s move on.
5. Recognize that in some ways it is harder on your loved ones than it is on you. They want to make it better for you and they cannot. It is especially hard on spouses, children, siblings, and parents who feel it is their job to protect you. You are the one going through it, so you know that it is unpleasant but doable, but your friends and family will worry that you are hurting or sick.
6. Amazingly a lot of people will be nice to you just because you have no hair. Strangers will hold the door open for you. People you haven’t seen in years will tell you they are; “praying for you”, “sending good Karma your way”, “wishing you good thoughts”, “sending you good vibes”, or just plain “thinking about you”. How lucky is that, the whole world is on your side when you have cancer.
7. Remember that this is an opportunity to strengthen friendships and family relationships. You will say “I love you” more often and others will too. You will learn not to sweat the little stuff because, really in the long run, most of the stuff we squabble about in life is pretty silly. You will re-evaluate the choices you made in life, the friends you picked, the person you married. If these are the people standing with you today you can feel good that you made the right decision so many years ago.
Good luck to you my unknown friend. May you fight a good fight with dignity and grace.