Cancer Is a Lot Like Drawing


What do erasers, drawings, cancer and life all have in common? More than you might think.

One of the hardest things about life is our uncertain future. Will we live a long or short life? When will we die? Will we be sick for a long time? How much money do we need to live until the end? What will happen to our loved ones after we are gone?

Someone once said to me that they didn’t want to know because on a good day, if they knew about something bad in the future, it would ruin the fun. My father always said we aren’t supposed to know when death will come. He accepted life on faith. I am always curious and once I even consulted a psychic — then I found out they are usually wrong!

Soon after, I found this quote by John W. Gardner in a great magazine about hearing loss: “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” I began to think about my own life. If I had gone to another college instead of mine, I would not have the lifelong friends I do. I have switched jobs frequently, not knowing what the future would hold. I took a gigantic leap career-wise when I switched from a library to a counseling field. I would reassure myself I could always go back. But can we really? If we do go back to the way things were before, there would be drastic changes. Once we move forward, it is hard to erase and return, whether that forward move takes form in a spouse, a job, a geographic location, or any other part of our lives.

Then along comes cancer. Now we are really working without an eraser. I truly admire my friends who have been treated for breast cancer and forced to make those horrible decisions — whether to have a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemo, radiation, or a combination. I have other friends with blood cancers facing the difficult decision of whether to undergo the arduous process of a stem cell or bone marrow transplant versus doing nothing. Some patients have said to me “I have to do this or I will die.” There are professionals to contact, but the decision is ultimately up to the patient. And people valiantly do this every single day.

There are other types of cancer and other decisions that come with them. Which doctor do we go to? Do we undergo treatment at a large teaching hospital or a small town? Every month I receive e-mails from people who are flying all over the country for second opinions. Do we take the risks of a new chemo without knowing about the side effects? If the procedure or chemo does not work, we might have done further irreparable damage to our bodies. In my case it is the loss of more of my precious hearing, which will never come back. Do I regret this? No — I am alive.

Every single one of us is living life without an eraser. Often, just getting up in the morning is a risk for every single human being! A case in point is that many falls happen in the home.

But human beings are brave indeed. We put one foot in front of the other and go on. Especially for cancer survivors, every step counts. We understand that this is life. Yes, we are working on blind faith. We savor each moment we are awarded. Because after all, this moment is all we are guaranteed. And like it or not, it has to be enough!

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