Cancer Survivorship Helped Me Be a Better Person

Cancer survivor confesses she has become nicer since cancer.

I am almost six years out from my breast cancer diagnosis and three years out from my melanoma. Getting and surviving cancer for several years motivated me to try to be a better person. Has cancer affected you this way? The thought of frequently looking at my own mortality has been and still is life-changing.

There is kindness. Wow, the kindness of others—family, friends, fellow cancer survivors and even strangers at my first diagnosis. It is humbling. It is my responsibility to return the kindnesses shown to me when I was diagnosed with this disease. If we aren’t here on this earth to hold each other’s hands and to help each other through life’s ups and downs, as well as turns and twists, then I don’t know what our purpose is. I still snap sometimes, but I am trying harder to be kinder in all interactions, including those with strangers, friends and family members.

One of our society’s major hobbies is the acquisition of stuff. In fact, I teach and write about clutter clearing and home organizing. Well, much of my stuff, including my nice heavy-duty pots and pans, pretty furniture and tidy closets will outlive me and will never ever give a hug to me or to anyone else. It makes me wonder why we constantly head out the door to acquire more. Seriously? My shopping is less frequent and less intense somehow now.

Television watching, surfing the net and shopping is wasted time. I know when I am lying on my deathbed, I will not regret not watching enough television, or not having enough hours to hang out on my computer or not enough time spent thumbing through catalogs or shopping in stores. I will regret hugs not given, conversations not held and life experiences not experienced. It isn’t complicated but sometimes I still waste time I think about poor prioritizing. I still get caught up in foolish busyness at times. I get caught up tending to my things rather than to my people. As a clutter-clearing speaker and author, this may be understandable, but it is not acceptable.

We have a lot of freedoms, especially here in the United States. We talk a lot about our rights. We want what we think we are due, yet what about our responsibilities and duties as citizens—as people? Aren’t we responsible for giving back as well as taking? Could we at least try to educate ourselves and to participate? Regardless of our political party, we all are part of the human race and we all impact each other’s lives. I mess up a lot, but isn’t there a responsibility to be the best me that I can be for those who are around me and for those who will come after me? It is my responsibility to see a talk therapist and to take my psych medications when I am stressed and anxious.

Rather than pursuing some of the things I thought were important before my cancers, things have changed. I have changed. I asked my husband how cancer has changed me. He said I am nicer now. Wince. Gulp. It is the truth. Honestly, I don’t treat people the way I did before cancer. I don’t have time for meanness now, especially my own. That is a hard thing to admit, but I think it is an important thing to say.

Have you been changed by your cancer too? How?