A Cancer Fighter's Reminder That the Universe Isn't All Bad

Experiencing the trauma of cancer can make you feel like the universe is working against you. One cancer survivor explains the series of events that changed his outlook.

Along my quest for wellness, I’ve noticed myself struggling with post-treatment trust and control issues. Now in all fairness, I was a bit of a perfectionist/control freak before the diagnosis… But since the trauma of cancer, it’s only gotten more noticeable.

Recently, a situation arose with a writing critique group for the memoir I’m working on. It was an intimate bunch, only four of us. We agreed to read each other’s full manuscript and then share feedback. One person each month — I was scheduled to go last.

Well, right away, after the guy whose turn it was to go first received his suggestions — let’s call him Bob — the dude straight up ghosted us! As his session was winding down, he thanked us tremendously for our time and efforts. Man, was it appreciated, he explained… And that was the last we ever heard from him.

Then, at the next meeting, another member (we’ll go with Alex here) canceled at the last minute.

I started getting ahead of myself, worrying that by the time it was my turn, I’d be left abandoned. The group was thrown together casually, based on the honor system… And my insecurities took charge. The jaded and beaten-down side of me questioned if I could really trust the universe. In much of my experience over the past few years, the world had proven itself to be quite cold and heartless.

I pulled my wife, Kori, aside and voiced my concerns, wondering, “Should I hold notes back from this next person until after my turn? This way there’s some incentive?”

This cringeworthy behavior felt entirely out of character for me, but I kept picturing worst case scenarios and began to panic. Ugh, the gross feeling of desperation!

Kori and I discussed my options and ultimately decided not to compromise my integrity. I’d deliver the same quality results that I always strive for and hold nothing back. If I got screwed at the end, I’d manage. If nothing else, I’d gotten pretty good at overcoming obstacles since treatment. So I did my part. Put the time in to read, gave the best advice that I could, and then hoped for the best…

Here's how it ultimately played out:

A month later, the fateful morning arrives: my draft’s turn to get critiqued.

I load up the laptop. Get my notepad and coffee ready. Throw on some tunes to break the silence, staring at myself on the Zoom camera for a few minutes…

Somebody logs on — its Alex. OK, now we’re talking. The two of us force semi-awkward small talk, giving the other guy, John, a few minutes to attend (or not).

And soon enough, John pops right up on screen. Both made it! Alright, fantastic. So let’s get to it. We start breaking down the read — the good, the ehh, the suggestions. And just when we’re making serious progress, Zoom notifies me the session’s about to run out of time.

I ask John and Alex if they could possibly hang around just a few more minutes if I start a new session — I only have a few last questions. No problem, they agree.

Well, a few questions turn into another full-fledged 45-minute session and this time, John suggests, “Hey Steve, why don’t you start a new Zoom just so we can make sure that you’re really comfortable with everything.”

What?! I couldn’t believe it. A foreign feeling washed over me, all warm and glowy… For a while now, most of my interactions have involved tense medical appointments or squabbling with insurance reps over billing discrepancies. The stress and endless battles have a way of putting you on the defensive. Not to mention how we’re living in such divisive, dark times with everyone struggling through COVID-19. All you hear on the news is people fighting over masks, vaccines, politics… What a refreshing moment to witness that the universe ain’t all bad.

I still have my baggage. That won’t be solved overnight. But like any significant issue requiring change in the world, with patience and small improvements chipping away over time, eventually you hope to get where you need to be. This was a beautiful reminder.

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