Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Can a diagnosis of cancer affect a person in a positive way? One survivor seems to think so.
Not everyone diagnosed with cancer experiences positive life lessons, but some do. Some are able to look past suffering to find transforming truths. I never expected to be one of those people, but after fighting breast cancer I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is not to take life for granted. Before being diagnosed with cancer, I never gave a thought to the number of days ahead. I always assumed there’d be a tomorrow, but cancer changed that for me. After breast cancer came into my life, I wasn’t sure there would be a tomorrow. Cancer helped me realize life is a precious gift and every moment must be treasured.
Cancer also taught me to love better. Before cancer, I assumed my friends and family members knew I loved them. Rarely did I find time to speak the words, “I love you.” Cancer helped me realize it’s important to share feelings openly and honestly. Now I tell my loved ones often how special they are to me.
Another lesson cancer has given me is the gift of listening. Before cancer, I didn’t always pay attention when someone was talking with me. Often, I’d find my mind wandering as I thought about the list of things on my agenda for the day. Being preoccupied with those thoughts kept me from hearing important conversations. Cancer has taught me to listen more intently. Now, when someone is speaking, I look into their eyes and focus on not only hearing the words shared, but also listen for those that aren’t spoken aloud. By becoming intentional in my listening, I can engage better and respond knowledgeably.
Cancer has also taught me that I don’t always know all the answers. Sometimes, it’s okay to figure things out as you go. Life doesn’t come with an instruction book and many times we’re required to do the best we can in various situations. Cancer has taught me to cope with whatever comes my way.
Another important lesson I’ve learned from cancer is that I’m braver than I ever thought I was and I’m stronger than I ever believed. Upon receiving a diagnosis of cancer, a person is often thrust in a position of being brave. For those of us who struggle in this area, it’s often a mind over matter challenge. Cancer pushes us out of our comfort zone. Many times, we must be brave even when we don’t necessarily want to be.
Cancer has taught me the importance of letting go. Before my diagnosis, I’d often hold onto petty grudges. Those little things would eat away at me causing stress and worry. Cancer helped me understand that many times, little nuisances weren’t worthy of my time or attention. Learning to let go was a challenge at first but as I practiced the art of releasing petty grievances and unimportant issues from my life, I found a new type of freedom.
One of the very best lessons cancer taught me was that it was okay to make myself a priority. Learning to take care of me wasn’t easy. My focus was usually on my family. Cancer helped me realize the importance of listening to my body. When I was physically tired, it was okay to lie down and rest. As I learned to take care of myself, I was better able to care for my loved ones.
Cancer also helped shift my perspective from earthly troubles to heavenly treasures. As I found myself struggling with health issues and other things I couldn’t control, I found my faith growing. No longer did I rely on my own strength and abilities, I began to look more toward God for wisdom and direction in my life.
Along with all of those aforementioned lessons, cancer taught me three more things —
Cancer, although a life-changing disease, is also a sweet gift. For those who look past the cloud toward the silver lining, there are always valuable lessons to be learned. Some lessons are extremely hard to accept and others are so simple, we just might miss them if we take time to blink. I can honestly say that cancer has been a good teacher. The lessons I’ve learned since being diagnosed with cancer have bettered my life. For that, I am forever grateful.