Anybody who knows me well enough knows that two things I don't like are unknowns and the uncontrollable. Obviously, this notion is simply insane because so many things fall into those categories. Cancer just so happens to be one of those things that falls into both. So, it should come as no surprise that three years ago when my sister was diagnosed, I struggled.
I learned that in those moments, perspective is incredibly important. While I didn’t always have perspective at the time that something bad was happening, it is something that I have worked hard to gained as time passed. I tried to see a silver lining of sorts and try and be positive despite all the negativity that was unfolding before my eyes.
I have memories that were made in some of the weirdest places. It is odd to think about the time when laughter broke out in a room in the emergency department. Seeing a friendly face made my worries melt away – if only for a little while. There was one Christmas Eve that was spent joking until we could go home. But of all the gifts that we received, the best were the people I met along the way.
If I scroll through my phone, nearly every other name is somebody that I did not know before cancer. From day one, her nurses at The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA) were a saving grace. I count many as close friends now. During her transplant, the team at Presbyterian St. Luke’s couldn’t’ have been more accommodating to her unique wishes and needs. I got to know her art therapist Nichole, and we try to get together every so often to catch up.
I have met families through LLS that I get to see now and again to share how far we have all come. I grab coffee with former nurses or meet up for lunch to share in how much life has changed since cancer left our lives. I am about to spend nearly a week in New York City with a friend that was one of her nurses and now is a sounding board and nursing mentor. As with Eric and so many others, I cannot imagine my life without so many of these faces.
Although the people I have come to know did not have cancer – and some did not have any loved ones with cancer – they were there for us, not because she was a patient and I was a caregiver, but because we were people going through an intensely complicated event in our lives and needed support and understanding. It is a testament to their big hearts and human spirit that they stepped up and offered to be the guiding forces that my sister and I needed.
I have written of my gratitude to cancer and lessons learned, but more than anything I am grateful to the people that came into my life during cancer. Cancer has provided opportunities and people in my life that never would have otherwise been. And in my eyes, they are the gifts that cancer has left behind.