It is quite crazy how a single 6 letter word can elicit so many emotions. For so many who have lost a loved one to the disease, it can bring memories and a sudden sadness. For anybody currently battling, it can cause fear and uneasiness due to so many facets in life remaining in flux. For somebody like myself, who was a caregiver, it carries both good and bad connotations.
Cancer is a memory that I hold close. It changed the path that I was taking in life and led me to nursing school. I met my late fiancé because of cancer and so many of the friends that I have now are because of my sister's cancer diagnosis. But more than that, cancer taught me so much about life.
It isn't to say that cancer was this huge, welcomed event in life. In fact, it was anything but. In numerous ways, it created anxiety and frustration in other places of my life that I would have been more than happy to do without. I was the least patient person when it came to lab results or scans. I hated waiting for doctors to round or for pharmacy techs to fill the endless prescriptions that my sister was usually discharged with.
With that said, cancer did help me see past the moment that I was living in. It forces you to expand beyond the mundane that we so often get caught up in. In our daily lives, some of the smallest things can make us mad or cause frustration. Me being 23 when my sister received her cancer diagnosis, it put things into perspective in a way that I'm not sure anything else could have done.
Suddenly so many of the things that used to bother me didn't. Being in traffic was no longer a burden because that was a chance for my Dad and me to unwind on the way home. Waiting in line at the grocery store was an opportunity to stand there and take a breath when so often I felt like I couldn't breathe.
Cancer forces you to see things that you don't want to. It makes you think about more than the moment that you are in. It is so easy to pay attention to all the wrong things and believe me; I did that at times just like everybody else. I know that it is easier said than done, but I would encourage anybody still in the thick of their cancer journey to focus on now.
Live in this very minute and do not think about how bad it could be. Don't think about the next appointment, scan or lab draw. Not about the next chemo or radiation treatment. Don't think about the many “what-ifs” that are inevitably running through your head. Think about the here and now. Live in the moment because life is short for all of us, and time goes by way too quickly to be anywhere else but here.