Friday, 4 May 2012

Lessons in life (otherwise known as 'what cancer teaches you')

Cancer has taught me many things, things that perhaps none of us should need to learn but I do believe it has made me a stronger person. Not in that awful clich├ęd sense of the word but simply that you have to find some sort of inner strength to deal with having cancer, its treatment and the life you are left with after active treatment is over.

The experience of having cancer has taught me that carpe diem is a truism, most especially if you have the kind of poor projected survival rate that I have. I am trying to learn that the day is also something that can slip from your hands no matter how hard you try to seize it and that I shouldn't consider it a failure if I don't always manage to catch it because there will be other days. Yes, I can say that cancer has blighted my life but I can also say 'I'm still standing' because I am, even if there are days when standing is hard.

Cancer has also taught me that not everyone is able to deal with you in the same way they did before because cancer is scary and they don't know how to treat you or what to say, and as a result they slowly fade out of your life. I was surprised and quite shocked to discover the hard way who those people were but there is nothing I can do to change that and that is a failing on their part not mine. It is easy to feel bitter and indeed, a keen sense of loss, but in the end you have to just be grateful for those who stayed to make the journey with you because they are the ones who count the most.

I think we have a preprogrammed, almost primal fear of cancer and what it can mean regardless of what the prognosis might be. People shy away from you because on a very basic, almost subconscious level, they are afraid it might be contagious. The dreaded C-word is a stark reminder of one's own mortality. Also cancer is something that happens to other people, not to us, our family or our friends. The shock of that and what it means is often enough on its own to make people take a step back.

I hate the fact that awareness of my own mortality has been thrust upon me in such a brutal manner but it also gives one a great deal of focus too. It's learning how to make the most of that focus that helps you deal with the rest - mostly.

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