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My Thank You Letter to Cancer

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Thank you, Cancer, for changing my life for the better. Ha ha! Bet you thought you couldn’t do that. But you did.

Oh yes, you made me suffer. But you know what, Cancer? I learned a lot about compassion and caring and humanity because of that. I learned to recognize when other people were hurting and needing help.

That changed me for the better for sure, because I care about others so much more than before you came along trying to frighten me. You terrified me, in fact. But because of that, I learned I am stronger than I thought I was. I learned I’m stronger than you, Cancer. Nyah! Nyah!

Thank you, Cancer, for giving me patience and fortitude, and gratitude. Thank you for teaching me how to be humble and brave at the same time, for teaching me how to cry out loud and not be ashamed. 

Thank you for helping me to understand that it is OK to ask for what I need, and not to feel like a burden to others, especially if they have said, “If there is anything I can do…” I understand it’s OK to lean on others when I need to, and I can offer kindness in return, too, whenever they need it. And, hopefully, understanding.

Thank you for teaching me how to let go of fallacious beliefs, pettiness, and small-minded thinking, and for giving me the opportunity to disconnect myself from things unworthy of my attention. Thank you for teaching me what is important and not to “sweat the small stuff.”

You taught me to research, to get serious about educating myself in every aspect of my diagnosis, of the condition of my health… It was hard to learn all that awful stuff you do, but I learned too, how the body works, how science is always making improvements. I’ve learned there really is hope even in the face of darkness.

Thank you Cancer for teaching me to respect my body, to listen to it, to take the best care of it as possible. I certainly wasn’t doing a good job of that until you came along…

Thank you, Cancer, for teaching me how to face my fear of death, my fear of mutilation, my fear of loss of self-identity…

Thank you for teaching me to not get caught up in frivolities, teaching me that an immaculately clean house is not the most important thing…

Thanks for teaching me that my hair doesn’t have to be “just so,” that I don’t have to be embarrassed about the imperfections of my body or the condition of my skin…

Thank you, Cancer, for showing me that sometimes it is necessary to stop what I’m doing and take inventory of my life to get my priorities in order. Did you know that, Cancer? You taught me how to simplify my life, to not take on more than I could handle, to not allow myself to be so overwhelmed trying to do too much…

And thanks to you, even though I couldn’t have a career, I dared to volunteer to teach children how to read and adults how to speak English. I could get up in front of people and give speeches about how to find their ancestors. I did things I never thought I would be brave enough to do, that one thing “they” swore I could never accomplish. I got pregnant and had a baby! Yes, Cancer, because of you, I did things I never dreamed possible. Thank you, for that.

But now, Cancer, you raised your ugly head to make me sick again after all these years of leaving you behind…

Go ahead, Cancer. I know you are going to do your thing. But I’m not cringing. I’m not wishing I could run away. I’m not giving up! I’m going to live my life as fully as possible, whether you are in it or not.

Because there’s one thing I learned on my own, Cancer. There’s one thing I learned how to do by myself. And that is to face you down and take up the challenge, and fight the good fight, and keep on going, and do the best I can to cherish each moment, whether dark or light.

Because they are MY moments and no one, not even you, Cancer, can take that away from me!

Image via contributor

Originally published: March 19, 2015
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