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The Epiphany That Helped Me When My Son Was Treated for Cancer

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One day during the 14 months that our teenage son, Thomas, was being treated for a recurrence of Rhabdomyosarcoma, a very rare and aggressive pediatric cancer, I had an epiphany. It was an epiphany on the struggle to stay in the present in order to enjoy the richness that each moment of life brings, even when the present is supremely difficult. The thought I had was, living in the present is not for the weak. It is not for the weak because it is scary and hard to do when the present itself is sad, traumatizing and painful. Living in the present, in the Now, requires patience, courage and fortitude.

In life, goodness and peace may come, but sometimes heart-wrenching difficulties come as well.  That is life. The reality is, we only have the now, this one second, and then the next, and the next, etc. One second into the future does not exist until it exists… up until then, it is not our reality. The past is full of memories, but it is not our reality either. We can learn from the past and take the good from the past, but the past is not our reality. Reality is right. This. Second. And that is how I somehow managed to survive and love every second I had fighting to save Thomas. 

I could only do that when I stayed in each precise moment. I still had to prepare and plan for the future, but emotionally I had to force myself to stay in the present and try, try, try to detach myself from the sadness of the past and the worries of the future. Focusing on the love in each moment as much as possible is how my husband and I strived to keep our family intact. 

We are not perfect at this skill… and it is a skill; it must be practiced. It is a skill I still must continually work on. But I truly believe in it, believe in the value of it, believe in the peace that it brings and believe in how completely enriching it is to really be present. It is not about forcing yourself to be giddy and joyful in every moment. That is not the point. The point is that I believe many of the darkest moments of the present offer a kernel of goodness, of insight, of the Divine.   

When taken cumulatively, I believe those golden nuggets of successive “moments in the now” add up to a beautiful, wonderful and blessed life well and truly lived.

mother and son taking a selfie

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: What was one thing you thought immediately after your diagnosis that you completely changed your mind about? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

Originally published: February 5, 2016
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