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When Your 'Grass' is the Worst in the Neighborhood

Sometimes it doesn't pay to make comparisons.
PUBLISHED May 15, 2019
As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.

Have you ever said to yourself, "She's got it bad. I'm glad I don't have it as bad as her."

Truth be told, we probably all make silent judgments such as this.

I used to say this to myself years ago about a friend named Mary. Mary had both bipolar illness and cancer. I was dealing with bipolar illness; that was bad enough. The thought of living with cancer as well was unimaginable.

Despite receiving two major diagnoses, my friend was not bitter. She believed in God and relied on Him to get her through particular rough spots. She was an inspiration to me and to everyone who knew her. When she wasn’t having electric shock therapy for her depression, she was having a scan to see if the cancer had returned.

Well, I don't know if I called down the evil eye, if my number was simply up or if God wanted to challenge me, but in 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my right breast. My treatment for this cancer was chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiation. In many ways, the treatments were worse than the actual disease.

“How could this have happened to me?” I lamented. “Wasn’t mental illness bad enough? How would I cope?”

We never think it will get that bad, but it can. The walls we delineate between ourselves and our peers are, unfortunately, imaginary. We are all subject to the same terrible experiences.

It's 2019, and I've been living Mary's same "hell" for eight years. Actually, it's not as miserable as I thought. I can put one foot in front of the other day by day. I can live with my illnesses just like Mary can. Perhaps, now I am even an inspiration to someone else.

Be careful in thinking that "it" could never happen to you. It can — whatever “it” is. Just when we believe we're immune from unfortunate experiences — bam — they hit us like rocks.

And think about this:  The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Sometimes the grass is worse. Sometimes, your grass is the worst grass in the whole neighborhood.

Yes, my life with both a history of cancer and bipolar illness has been difficult, but I muddle through. In fact, having cancer has made me stronger, so much so that I barely notice my bipolar issues any more. That's one way to work through a health problem.

An ex-boss, Roger Osborne, is not even 60 and he’s had several strokes and a few heart attacks. He’s been near death for a while now, but he keeps on keeping on. Another friend, Jeannie, has Parkinson’s and lives in a nursing home. She’s 58.

Am I going to compare my health to theirs?

No way! I’m done making comparisons. They only seem to get me into trouble.

In conclusion, I have been the “crazy” person, I have been the “cancer” person and I have been the “crazy cancer” person. Now that I am in recovery for both issues, I look forward to being the “one hell of an incredibly strong person who overcame a lot of crap.”

I can live with that title.

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