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While cancer is a horrible disease, it taught me some valuable lessons.
Cancer is a horrible disease and blessed are the ones who shall never be diagnosed with this illness. I was denied such a blessing when I was diagnosed in 2021 two different stage 3 cancers. Now in 2023, I am still dealing with them.
I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer barely seven months after I finished my original treatment. The thing about this disease is it changes everything — physically, emotionally and intellectually, spiritual and temporal — everything. There is no aspect of life that stays untouched, and there is no easy end to cancer-related trauma.
My life is no different; I changed from an auburn-haired corporate executive, living her best life with an ever-busy social life to a bald-headed executive who has to use every reserve of her energy to stay in game, forgotten by almost every friend and acquaintance, constantly in pain, unable to do simplest of the tasks. It is my toughest reckoning yet, in already a very tough life. I have to dreg up resources that I never knew I had just to bat out the curve balls life was throwing at me.
But as I grieve for a life interrupted, I also realise, it is only interrupted. Maybe this is a moving from one life stage to another, and it may not be all bad.
To start with, cancer was a cleansing. It was a cleansing of not only tumors and cancerous lymph nodes, but a cleansing of every individual who did not value me or did not reciprocate my feelings. In life, we come across many people with whom we build relationships, assuming it will be mutually reciprocated. But difficult times are a great litmus test, and those who cannot stand by you in those hard times may need to be let go off. It is be lonely for a while, but you value those few who stand by you and start liking your own company.
Then there was very slow realisation of the gift of good health. I always had a strong constitution that has weathered many storms without any repercussion and since I never smoked or drank alcohol, I gave no consideration to the body, assuming it will continue to function in its mint condition always. Only when I lost control over it, did the lesson come home: good health is irreplaceable and, in its absence, nothing matters. These days, I watch my diet, work out regularly and get enough sleep. I cannot save the world until I save myself!
Finally, I forced myself to seek self-worth, outside of corporate and social success, from within. I began to understand, that while I can control the process (my work), I cannot control the product (promotions, growth etc.) A conglomerate is something that just rolls on even if you are sick, without any backward glance. It is not a bad thing, it pays the bills, provides insurance that allows extensive treatment and allows planning for the future. It cannot care; it is not in the nature of the thing and while it does hurt to be tossed aside without regard after years of sterling service, it is also life.
It was difficult, but for my mental wellbeing, I had to move away from depending on an organization or my so-called social circle and instead focus on what I can do. I have begun to find a lot of satisfaction in other things: in my writing, in time spent reading and in my cancer advocacy work.
In a strange way, cancer has taught me to appreciate life without any clutches. It brought home what I always knew, but never practiced – that joy is around, everywhere. Taking the time to enjoy the winter sun or looking at flowers, a random holiday in the middle of the work week, a good book, a wonderfully cooked mustard fish, those few people who ride out the cancer ride with you — these are things that give you immense joy and making life, life!
I do wish cancer had not happened, but now that it has, it brought in new perspectives and given me a new life that needs to be lived every day.
This post was written and submitted by Jayanti Chakraborty. The article reflects the views of Jayanti Chakraborty and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.
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