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One Spark for Patients with Cancer and Survivors


A cancer survivor tells readers how we can warm people up with a small spark even when we do not feel well.

I have written before about how sad I feel because I don’t have the energy to do what I did before I received my diagnosis of cancer.

Part of my sadness is because I was forced to quit two careers where I felt I was making a difference as a counselor and teacher.

However, because of my compromised immune system I am also unable to be part of initiatives like the “Pay it Forward" movement endorsed by CURE®, where I would visit and encourage newly diagnosed patients with cancer. This is unsafe for me and has occurred not only because of the chemo and the non-curable cancer, but also because I have endured a rare IgA immune deficiency since birth.

I do what I can and find that my sending cards means a great deal to people. Just to receive something besides those pesky advertisements and bills in the mail is awesome. I am also busy with a Patient Advisory Council at the Cancer Center where I get my treatments. Presently, I am a “patient consultant” for the brand-new center that is being built, and this is so exciting! Whenever I can, I conduct programs with my hearing ear dog to enlighten people about all she does for me as a service dog.

I am very hard on myself and smile about my family doctor of 25 years telling me, “It took cancer to finally slow you down!”

I was born hard of hearing and became deaf from chemo. I have been outspoken, and had a lot of “fire in my belly” in younger years, advocating and speaking up about rights for people with disabilities. I have worked either as a volunteer or an employee for over 40 years, informing persons with various disabilities about their rights.

However, it was innocently singing a song in church one Sunday that I realized something very important. The song we were singing is called “Pass It On” with both music and lyrics by Kurt Kaiser. Please read carefully the first two stanzas:

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.”

There is a powerful message in these two simple and straightforward lines. Often, I have been impatient in traffic, upset by a rude server or generally in a bad mood because I don’t feel good. The day progresses and — no surprise – it is horrible because of my own mood. I heard a stress program from an expert one time about coping with stress before you go home and kick the cat!

How often has a warm smile, a friendly wave or someone leaving you space in a traffic line cheered you up? Somehow, the day goes better when things like this happen and we want to “pass it on” to the next person!

We never know how we have influenced someone with a simple compliment. Some of us write uplifting articles, send a card or tell someone we appreciate what a great job they are doing. It can make all the difference in the world.

So, my friends — maybe we don’t have the energy anymore to start a raging fire or possess the old “fire in our belly,” but this song applies to everyone as we get older and pass the torch on to the next generation. It especially applies to us cancer survivors.

It only takes a spark — and for us, it is enough. Go out, light that spark and warm people up!

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