There’s no doubt that cancer changes us in profound and often shocking ways. The obvious and most visible changes are physical. Whether from surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or the cancer itself, our bodies go through incredible changes in order to survive. But this is about the other changes, the ones that aren’t immediately apparent but are so much greater.
Cancer challenges our faith, shaking our belief systems down to the roots. It leaves us exposed and vulnerable, completely unprepared for what’s next, whatever that might mean. Cancer scares us and saddens us, makes us angry and regretful, leaving us emotionally spent. And, unless we have tools to help deal with our new life, cancer can keep on chipping away until, one way or another, it wins.
I believe we have choices about how to live our lives every day, regardless of the impediments and challenges brought on by cancer. I like to think that I get to remake my life with each new morning, crafting the person who will be me today. The question is who will you be?
Do you feel like a victim of the terrible things that have happened to you? Do you feel totally out of control of your life? Are you constantly wondering, why me? I know I did. But eventually I realized that I was reacting to the disease, not responding to my situation - a subtle but important distinction. Once I accepted that these were the cards I was dealt, my focus shifted to exploring ways to make the best of those cards. And, life got a lot better.
There’s an old saying: It’s not the destination that matters; it’s the journey. To me, the journey brought on by cancer has caused me to become stronger yet softer, more resolute yet accepting those things that are out of my control. The person I’ve become has been shaped by all the events in my life – good, bad and otherwise.
My teacher, Deepak Chopra, taught me a powerful lesson. Handing me a blank journal, he instructed me to write my story – with all the drama, the pain or complaints, a history of wrongs and regrets. Expecting he would read it and be sympathetic to my situation, I offered it up as any proud student.