Even With Cancer, Only Wish to Be Yourself

A cancer diagnosis can easily get you thinking how great it would be to be anyone else. I learned very quickly that this is a wish I hope never to have granted.

The day of my cancer diagnosis was a blur.

Five years ago, I was at home recovering from my lumpectomy. It was a warm July afternoon and it had been a nice quiet day away from work. I felt good. I wasn’t in a ton of pain, and all indications from the doctor seemed that the tumor looked totally benign. So my panic button was all but deactivated.

The cable guy was at my house trying to fix the connections, and I couldn’t wait to watch my evening shows. As the way things tend to go, I received the call from my doctor right in the middle of the cable guy’s visit. He asked if that moment was a good time and I thought, why wouldn’t it be? He’s going to tell me good news.

Instead, he told me I had cancer. This happened right when the cable guy was walking over to where I was sitting to let me know he finished the repairs. Great timing by all! At that moment, I wished I was someone else and anywhere else for that matter. That thinking carried into the next day when I had to go back to the doctor’s office for more conversations, more tests and more discussions about the cancer I now had.

My parents took me to the doctor, and as we were driving home, we drove past a local area of town known for its restaurants, bars and outdoor entertainment. It was summer. It was a glorious day. Everyone seemed to be out, laughing, eating and simply enjoying their lives. They were enjoying the lives that they still had while mine literally just crashed and burned. This was one of my few “why me?” moments. It was hard to digest. My world had literally stopped spinning and everyone else was having the time of their lives.

As we were sitting at a stoplight, I leaned over to my parents in the front seat of the car and said, “I wish I was one of these people sitting outside, enjoying their friends and their lives. They have it so good. They don’t have cancer.” I had feelings of pure jealousy of everyone else. I couldn’t grasp the fact that I had cancer, and just felt like I was the only one at that very moment dealing with anything bad. After I said it, there was silence in the car for a second. Then my dad spoke up. His words have stuck with me to this day.

He simply said, “Don’t wish you were someone else. You have no idea what any of these people are dealing with. They may look fine on the outside, but they could be dealing with so much on the inside. Look at you. People could say the same about you. No one at this very moment knows you are dealing with cancer. Only wish to be yourself.”

It was such a simple couple of sentences, but they hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t the only one in the world dealing with something rough. I wasn’t the only one at that particular stoplight dealing with something. Everyone has issues, concerns, happy and sad moments. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is one of the most difficult situations out there, but don’t wish to be someone else, as you will never know what you might get. Focus on you, your journey and your outcome. That’s all any of us can do.