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Cancer and Presidential Election Results of 2016

BY Nancy Reinisch, L.C.S.W., USAT Coach
PUBLISHED November 28, 2016
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
Ten years ago when I heard the words, “you have cancer,” a seismic life change occurred in my world. Six months ago when I heard the words “your cancer has returned,” I experienced another ground-shifting event. When I heard the words of who won the presidential election, the earth opened up and swallowed me again in sorrow.

My gal had lost. And in turn I, too, felt lost.  But if I have learned anything from my cancer journey it is that the spirit of survival is bigger than any diagnosis…or in this case…any election.

I can thank the Cancer Walk and Talk group for helping me with this lesson because a cancer diagnosis is a little bit like loosing an election. You experience unimaginable bad news at first and then with the right support you can move on.

For years we have employed a “political free zone” in our cancer group by default. Cancer is our subject. It’s what brings us together. We come from all walks of life and we share a bond with our cancer. Yet, the day after the election emotions overflowed. Some people were distraught and fearful about the results. Others were happy and hopeful with the results. And I needed to figure out how to honor everyone – including their very devastated leader…me.

With an initial cancer diagnosis, like those disappointed in the election results, most of us cry. We cry a lot. We become fearful. In my case, you embrace the possibility of a condensed life expectancy. And we grieve that loss. Our world is no longer safe. Everything we believed in has changed. We wonder how we will get through it. Is this not similar to those of us disappointed in the election results?

With our cancer group, on any given week, someone will be sharing joyful news of a remission, or completion of treatment, or a new clinical trial they are beginning. Yet, others will be sharing disheartening news of an ugly reoccurrence, or terrible side effects, or the passing of a cancer friend or member. And as a group, we learn to rejoice with the good news for some and offer comfort to the bad news of others. Somedays we are envious of someone’s good news as we wish it was ours. Yet, we are able to provide support, regardless. It’s what helps all of us get through our difficult journey.

The election results brought similar disparate emotions to the group. There were joyful feelings for some and disheartening feelings for others. I was proud of the men and women in the group who shared their feelings openly. The discourse was respectful and caring. At least I hope folks felt that way. 

In cancer, we put one foot in front of the other and figure it out. The frightful journey starts to seem more optimistic once treatment begins. With a plan comes action. With action comes hope. With support from friends and family, the will to live triumphs again. With a mental shift comes the ability to look adversity in the eyes and say, “Lets go another round, Chemosabee!"  And now, with the election aftermath, we will do the same.

What I have learned from cancer most of all is that my life hasn’t changed as much as I feared. It’s just different. And less predictable. And I will do what every human being on earth has done for thousands of years, “You take the sourest lemons that life has to offer and you turn it into something resembling lemonade.” *  

I will realize that this is just another life-changing event that I will survive. I will be hopeful again.

And I will do it with the same friends and family I have always had. I will not love them less for who they voted for. And I hope they will do the same for me. We will get through this.

 *Thank you character “Dr. Nathan” from This is Us, my new favorite TV show!
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