If You Have To Have Cancer

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Never underestimate your value to a person who has just been diagnosed. Isn’t that what these blogs are all about anyway?

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger, Linda Cohen

Someone newly diagnosed is scared and searching for information. American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön wrote in her book, The Places That Scare You, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

What does it mean to sit in the dark with someone? A person with a shared experience can truly give compassion to another. I never really thought about it this way, until I recently received a call from a stranger who was diagnosed with small lymphocytic lymphoma and heard that I had the same. A mutual friend had given her my number after asking me if I would consider talking to her.

That’s when I realized how my compassion for her was different than someone who was not living with it. Beth began by telling me how it all began and where she was at this point. I certainly could relate to all she told me. I knew how she felt because I remember all too well when I first heard my diagnosis and began to google it. Reading about it was so scary. Then, I told her my story and she could see all that we shared. She had her first radiation treatment that day. I told her how I too had radiation at approximately the same time in my journey. The good news was that I was ten years ahead of her and hoping for many more!! This was huge because there is no cure for our particular cancer. Luckily it is indolent. It grows slowly so there is time to decide how to treat it. I told her one doctor told me that there are wonderful medicines to help us live a long life now. He said, “Your disease will take a step forward, and then you’ll take the necessary step right alongside it." I told her I just celebrated 14 years taking steps next to my cancer. She saw how I am living a very full life now that I am taking a BTK inhibitor which I began a year ago. We spoke that evening and we are still in touch. 

About a week later, Beth called to tell me how helpful it was to talk to me. She did not have such a great PMA… (positive mental attitude), until after we spoke. She felt so much better about her prognosis. All I could think was how helpful it would have been to be able to speak with someone who had a similar diagnosis after I first learned about mine.

Let me end by saying that I know some people like to keep their lives private when it comes to their health, but by doing that, not only don’t you give other people the opportunity to help or even pray for you, but you also won't be available to help someone who could benefit from your experience. You will lose an opportunity to be there for a fellow cancer patient with the same or similar diagnosis. After listening to Beth, I could see how valuable it was to her.

If you or someone you know has small lymphocytic lymphoma, please feel free to connect with me. My email is flindacohen@gmail.com. So, as I said in the beginning, isn’t this one of the benefits of the blog? To help someone with the new darkness they find themselves in after being diagnosed with cancer? 

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