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Admission is by invitation only and the dues are high. Once we're in, we're members for life.
I never wanted to join this club. I never even got the usual offers in the mail. One day I was apparently a healthy male, living life fully, and the next day I was a card-carrying affiliate in an organization so large that over 14 million people join every year. The part that really bothered me, though, was when I realized that once we're invited in, we're in forever.
We can never become a former cancer survivor, and it's not possible to cancel our membership, because once we are diagnosed with the disease, it remains part of our lives forever.
But I do expect to stay cancer-free as long as possible, and as I approach my four-year anniversary on May 11, I'm encouraged by what the future may hold. Not all cancer patients choose chemotherapy as the method to eradicate their disease. I was one of those people who opted against it, so these last four years of living without the side effects that my recommended chemo was statistically very likely to create, have been a blessing in many ways. Of course, our cancer choices are not without risk, and so we must be willing to accept the consequences of our decisions. This is something I am willing to do.
But this cancer club offers no refunds. Regardless of what route we take in our efforts to become and remain cancer free, we are destined to be reminded often that recurrence may be just around the corner. So, there is an underlying uncertainty that shadows us for the rest of our lives.
However, there is a sort of "vacation option" available that puts our account on "hold" for an unspecified period of time, and that's what I've signed up for.
And the only thing necessary to activate that particular option in our gold card cancer membership is to live in the present moment each and every day. Our membership mantra might be, "Today I am doing everything I believe is effective to keep my cancer at bay. Today, I am able to function, to enjoy my life, to laugh and be grateful for this and every moment that follows.”
There may come a time when the days are not so easy. But in my case, I'll wait for those moments to actually manifest without jumping into the future with the "what ifs" that so often cause us undue anxiety.
My credit card companies have offered me "Gold Cards" and "Diamond Memberships" for a number of years, luring me to upgrade my status and pump up my ego at the same time. There's even a "Starbucks rewards Visa card" that has been teasing me to join the clan of coffee lovers around the world who have been granted special privileges at the coffee counter.
But I don't care to stand out in the crowd and I certainly don't have a desire to flash my platinum card to remind myself of how important my life is. On the other hand, a good walk in the desert or a chat with a friend; a ride on my bicycle; or even 20 minutes of mindful daily meditation makes my membership in the Cancer Club a unique experience that actually produces real and measurable dividends. It may not be a cash-back card like the others offer, but it's definitely a positive rewards card that gives me the incentive to enjoy the full benefits of being alive.