Having cancer is the most personal of journeys. It rips you down to your core. It chews you up and vomits you out again and again. It’s horrible and frightening and disgusting. But it is also something I’ve learned to live with since I was first diagnosed 22 years ago. I’ve had lots of time to think about my life and how cancer plays a role in it.
With every event in my life I ask myself, what can I learn from this? And with cancer, the hardest lesson has been to learn to live in a state of gratitude. Why, after all, would one be grateful for a horrible disease that kills people too young and, for those who survive, creates immeasurable pain to body and soul?
It is not cancer for which I am grateful, but I am grateful for my life which has revolved around and evolved from cancer. As part of my quest to maintain right thinking, that is to say keeping my mind in a useful and productive place, I have kept a Gratitude Journal (many, really) as a kind of repository of thoughts. Some are simple. Others are very elaborate. But all are lists of things for which I am grateful. Here are but a few:
I’m grateful for having a loving family that has grown with me and cared for me.
I’m grateful for an adoring husband who has been my rock, my partner, my lover…even when things get pretty grim.
I’m grateful for friends who help me laugh during dark days and remind me of good ones.
I’m grateful to live where cancer care is the best in the world, with brilliant nurses, doctors and researchers devoted to fixing the cancer problem.
I’m grateful for our grandchildren who don’t understand cancer and think my infusion port is weird but hug me anyway.
I’m grateful that I live with a sense of purpose, helping others survive this disease as best they can.
I’m grateful that my work with cancer patients allows me to know them at the most intimate moment of their life.
I’m grateful that I am alive. Even on bad days . . . I’m still alive.
And the list goes on. I’ve filled many journals, often recalling the people or events in my life that have given me joy, have taught me to live and laugh, have made me who I am.