Don’t Let Cancer Steal Your Ability to Feel Happy


Cancer steals away so much from your life. Don’t let it take your happiness, too. A caregiver explains how to make an effort to feel joy, regardless of how bad things are.

When people think of cancer, happy is most likely a word they do not associate with the disease. For me, when my sister was diagnosed, happiness was something that I was not sure would ever return to our lives. And in the beginning, it was admittedly hard to come by. I remember the day after her diagnosis when I was walking our dog with my twin. We sat upon a hill, and he told a joke and I laughed. And for a moment, I felt guilty. How could I be laughing when my sister was seriously ill?

So often, during cancer, there are reasons to cry – reasons to be angry at others, the world and cancer itself. And there are also reasons to be happy. Happy that you have another day to spend with those who you care about. Happy that the sun is shining. Happy that you have a dog lying next to you sweetly. Happy that football is on the television. Happy to spend some time with friends outside of the hospitals that now feel like home. The reason to be happy will differ for everyone, just as cancer is different from person to person. Be sure to take time and find your own reason to be happy.

Cancer steals away so much from the lives that are impacted by the disease. It takes away so much and changes your sense of normal. It changes us in ways that we could never have imagined. It alters how we think of the world and impacts our views on life and mortality. Do not let this disease take away happiness too.

Because the cancer was so pervasive in our lives, I made an effort to create them. Movie nights at the hospital with popcorn and root beer floats. Decorating my sister's hospital room for the holidays that she did not get to spend at home. Bringing Thanksgiving dinner to her because she could not come to us. Making crafts so that her time in bed would not seem wasted. Making games out of walking laps to get her steps so they would not seem like she was walking identical laps day after day.

Yes, these moments were framed because of cancer, but perspective matters. We can both look back and share laughter over some of these things. The nurses adored her room because it was decorated seasonally. We "carved" pumpkins in her rehabilitation center since we could not carve real pumpkins at home. And the facility ended up replicating the craft project for others because they thought it a good idea. We would play the alphabet game when she walked. Meaning, we chose a category, and each had to list an item that began with every letter in the alphabet. When she walked, it was an incentive because she could not return to bed until we did all the letters.

By no means am I suggesting that you smile through it all, or that you try not to feel sad for what has happened and all that you may have endured. I am not saying you cannot have bad days or that you should only be happy. Some days will be downright awful, and others will be devastating. Find the good moments that do exist, even if it occurs during a bad day. Find those fleeting moments of joy and happiness. Focus on them, live in those moments and take it all in. Because as hard as cancer is and as dreadful as it may seem – moments of happiness can still exist during the darkest times in life.

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