7 Things Cancer Taught Me

Cliché but True … or False?Eagle Flying Over Mountains

“When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight.”
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For better or for worse, today marks one year that my life changed forever. I thought about writing about what I physically and emotionally experienced: the roller coaster ride called “cancer” — but honestly, who wants to hear about my health issues or the medical walk down cancer’s path? It’s scary and the only people who will truly understand (no matter what I’d write about it) are those who’ve experienced it firsthand. We all have our hills and valleys and “crosses to bear.”

The only thing I will say about my physical/medical thyroid cancer experience, is please stop classifying it as “the good cancer.” Yes, believe it or not, many people classify thyroid cancer as a “good cancer” because of its survival rate … and I get that, I do. BUT – it was not “good.” No cancer is “good.” And as a matter of fact, it sucked. So please – “check your neck” – it’s more common than you think and one of the cancers that are on the rise.

What I do want to share with you are the “good things” cancer taught me. Don’t laugh. If I can lift up just one person’s spirit today, then I am happy and this blog did its job.

  1. Cancer taught me that routine is OK. Actually, routine kinda rocks. I am now thankful for my “routine.” There is nothing boring or mundane about doing the same things on a daily basis. Things like opening my eyes in the morning. Breathing. Being here. Hopefully, getting to see my amazing son grow into a man and growing (very) old with my rock of a husband. Appreciating the incredibly supportive family and friends that surround me. Things like that. I am “lucky.” I am thankful. I am truly blessed to have a routine. The little nest we make for ourselves is pretty awesome in itself.
  2. Cancer taught me that the saying “life is short” is ridiculously true as is the saying “time flies.” Life IS short, whether you live to be 110 or are called home “way too soon.” It goes by quick, so stop and smell the roses, unless you’re like me and are allergic to roses, then stop and smell the cookies baking in the oven .. and eat one, or two or even three of them. Savor and enjoy them. And … don’t forget to tell people you love them for they are your cookies (or your roses) — although I don’t think they’d appreciate you eating or sniffing them, so please don’t take me literally.
  3. Cancer taught me (ok, I’m lying, I learned this lesson long ago) but would like to share it here in case you haven’t – never let anyone tell you “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” Yeah, blah, blah, blah. This is one cliché I’ve found to be bullshit (over and over again, pure bullshit). It’s one cliché I hate. It’s one that shuts doors in your face. Only YOU will know how the grass feels to YOU, only you will know if the grass is greener and the only way to do that is to follow YOUR dreams. No one has the right to squash your dreams, only you can do that. And once you’ve felt and stepped on the fresh, new (sometimes scary and unknown) grass, don’t look back. Going backwards usually doesn’t get you far. It’s not rocket science.
  4. Cancer taught me “mind over matter” really does work. Hearing the news you have something that could end your life is a pretty hard concept to grasp. It sent me into a downward spiral. What most people don’t get is .. “it” was really no longer about me, “it” was about the people I might leave behind should this “thing” take my life. “It” hurt. “It” made me sad. “It” made me depressed. Not what I might physically experience, but the thoughts of not being there for my loved ones, most especially my child. Then one day I made a conscience decision. Well, I really don’t know what came over me, but whatever “it” was — “it” woke my sorry ass up. I have a life to live, however long may be left of it – do any of us really know? It is a life worth fighting for – I have people worth giving this fight everything I’ve got — whether I am here until I am 110 or if I am taken “too soon” – I’m taking off my kid gloves and fighting dirty if I have to .. and until my very last breath.
    My turning point: one morning I put on an old favorite, Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” – it was early but I didn’t care. I blasted it, my windows were rattling. I envisioned myself with wings and I flew. I cried, I screamed, I punched things and then I sang. I played it over and over. I mentally “rose above” the mountains, spread my wings and I flew. Don’t get me wrong, I have my bad days, but I have not been grounded since. I am kicking ass. And with everything I have in me, I will continue to kick ass. Find your song, blast it and kick ass, kick ass every day!
  5. Cancer taught me that you’re not obligated to keep negative people in your life. If someone consistently and intentionally tries to bring you down, insults you, hurts you, or basically treats you like shit .. well … who has time for that? See #2. And while I believe in giving people a chance, sometimes more than one, you eventually learn that people who are full of negativity cause stress and sometimes sadness and anger (and other emotions) that clearly most humans would prefer to avoid, but for whatever their reasons… don’t. Cancer taught me I am not obligated to deal with consistently rotten people. Stress kills. One day (usually unfortunately) most people eventually grasp this concept, but hopefully not too late because roses and cookies smell better than shit, shit (as we all know) stinks. Cancer tends to straighten out life’s priorities. And the saying. “my poop smells like roses,” is a lie.
  6. Cancer taught me that life’s lemons sometimes teach us amazing life lessons. These “lemons” slap us in the face, they beat us down, sometimes so far down that some people can’t and don’t get up. So if you’re one of the “stronger folks” who is able to pick yourself up make lemonade … then please remember to be kind, please pick up those who may not be as strong as you. Offer them a hand and show them they can walk again. It’s not always about “you” .. most times it’s about “others” and “others” shouldn’t be a tripping hazard. And don’t forget, they are bearing their own cross that you may or may not be able to SEE.
  7. Cancer taught me to open my eyes. Now please … open yours, you don’t need cancer in your life to see “it” — Enjoy the beauty of the “unseen” things in your life, seek them out. Find those “routine” unseen things (see #1), they are there .. every day .. right in front of you .. and might be taken for granted. Things you think are going to magically happen tomorrow (yes, they really ARE magical) — for tomorrow is not promised. Things such as sunsets and sunrises, rain, butterflies, flowers, smiles, even frowns and tears (as some tears teach us those amazing life-lessons, see #6).

I’ll stop at 7, for it’s “lucky number 7” and I’m feeling LUCKY (sorry – I’m so full of clichés you may want to smack me at this point) .. and I could go on .. because cancer taught me a lot about LIVING .. but I’ll end with ..

I hope you find “your routine” and appreciate it. I hope you revel in it. I hope that you find “your song” and blast it. Dance to it! Dance to it with bare feet, in the rain and on your new grass! Eat cookies, smell roses and don’t take any shit! And don’t forget to KICK ASS!

PS – One last cliché – “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.” You know the rest. If you don’t .. please open your eyes, please don’t wait for something bad to learn something GOOD.

dance in the rain

survivor_22_thyroid_cancer_poster-r9c1d74d5d7a6415a8748cfa959bbe79f_wad_8byvr_324

“Cancer Free” as of May 8, 2015
– Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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4 thoughts on “7 Things Cancer Taught Me

  1. Love the criticism of calling thyroid cancer, the good kind of cancer. It actually helped give me a positive outlook at first, but it also lulled me into this belief that everything was going to go smoothly…. I didn’t know that radioiodine therapy doesn’t work on everyone. Never gave me any indication that I would have to think past that step. Realizing I didn’t fall into the typical papillary thyroid patient was hard because I wasn’t aware that was a probability.

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