Reframing Cancer: Focus on the "And"


Focusing on the "and" instead of the rest

It was absolutely crushing to hear that my sister had cancer. With her diagnosis, everything that I had planned suddenly wasn't important anymore. There were many times when I questioned why all of this had to happen. Cancer was hard enough, but to me, it seemed that my sister’s battle was harder than most.

Although I would change so much about this time, there are aspects I wouldn't change for reasons that are sometimes hard to explain. Since my sister was so sick, I met many people who will now forever be in my life. The October after my sister gained remission, I made the choice to re-enter the workforce. In doing so, I met a phenomenal lady who is the best boss that anybody could want. Mariah Baker uses a word frequently when speaking. "And" is a pretty big part of her vocabulary.

It is this word that had helped me to have perspective about the time that my sister had cancer. It has helped me to see that two things were happening at once: She was incredibly ill and we were in the process of making unforgettable memories. Our world was turned upside down, and we managed to get through it.

This isn't to negate all the awful things that were experienced during cancer. It doesn't mean that I am OK with all of the bad or don't wish that my sister hadn't suffered through all that she did. That would obviously be simply ridiculous. But nothing in life happens one-at-a-time. It simply doesn't work that way, even when you are enduring cancer. We only get this one life, this once chance to do all that we possibly can. There are so many hard days with cancer, and I challenge you to make memories despite that.

Lay in bed and watch movies next to the one you love. Sit outside sharing stores under the shade of a tree. Curl up on the couch turning through photo albums while sipping hot cocoa. Grab some frozen cookie dough and bake them to decorate for your nurses for your next treatment. Take a trip to the zoo and pretend that you've never been before. Take a walk in the park and just people watch, making sure to stop and smell the roses. It doesn't have to be big, just make memories because I promise you- no matter what happens, you will treasure them forever.

I know that it is easy to fixate on the bad or to focus on how hard the days can be. But just as many have challenged me, I challenge those going through cancer to focus on the good, enjoy what is easy and enjoy the little things that can happen along this journey. Life is short — do what you can to make it sweet.

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Dr. Lauren Pinter-Brown