Cancer sucks. Right?

Cancer sucks.  Cancer is our enemy.  We must FIGHT cancer with all at our disposal.

These are words I hear, and I think, regularly.

My Dad died of cancer, 14 years ago, still in the prime of his life, an awful take-away to all his family and friends.  Paulette, Cookie, Helen, and other wonderful people from our workplace have died from cancer.  Most recently, friends Dick, Melissa, and Wes have lost their lives to cancer, and had their lives cut short dramatically – and in two of those cases, very suddenly.

As I am going through my own journey in dealing with cancer, I find I have joined other friends doing the same – Jim, Bruce, Carolyn, Brent, Lee, Ginny, and more.

And I have met with many people, and been inspired by so many of them, who are part of the “Club” – cancer survivors, in some cases, for many years.  Geoff, Norm, Lou, Jon, Meri, Shawn, Rob, Chris…. And the list goes on.

As I have learned more, I am struck by the statistic that 40% of us living today will develop cancer at some point during our lifetime.  40%!  Wow.  That’s a big club.   It’s the number two cause of death (heart disease still is #1) in the U.S., and almost 600,000 people will die this year from various forms of cancer.

So yes, Cancer sucks.  And I am focused on beating it.

And yet….

I was asked yesterday if I could imagine cancer being my “friend”.  What?  It’s the enemy, right?
Can enemies also be friends?

Well, here’s the thing. I think it depends on what we do with it.  If we allow ourselves merely to be victims, and to learn nothing from our experience with adversity and a threatening enemy, then there can be no redeeming value.

But what if we take the cancer diagnosis as an opportunity?  An opportunity to examine our lives, our priorities, our decisions, our behaviors, and our life’s goals and wishes?  Then we are not victims.  We are in charge, even if cancer eventually takes our life. We determine our own reality.

Stuart Scott of ESPN fame died this last week from cancer.  He lived with incredible dignity and courage, and he has a quote that has been often repeated:

When you die, it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”

I love this, and agree with it wholeheartedly.  We will all die, and unfortunately for too many of us, it will be cancer that eventually gets us.

So “cancer sucks” in that too many loved ones suffer or die before what seems like it should be their time.  But the gift in all this can be the opportunity to change the way we live our lives. I do not wish cancer on any of my friends.  But I am personally very grateful for the “head slap” that this diagnosis has presented me with to explore different parts of my life and what matters most, and how I wish to live the rest of my days.   I am not angry or bitter “at cancer”; I am instead accepting it for what it is, and figuring out how to grow and learn from it.  In that sense, this chapter of my life is indeed “my friend”.

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8 thoughts on “Cancer sucks. Right?

  1. +1. The reality is that life is an opportunity so we should all feel the same way about life in general with or without the challenge you are facing. But man, 40% is a pretty depressing number. On to 2015!

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  2. Maybe Steven Colbert’s construct– frenemy?? There’s much to learn from everything, I think. Glad you are meditating, too; long time meditator here and have been to meetings with Kabat-Zinn. You are doing your part!

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  3. I heard Stuart Scott say this the other day and thought immediately of you, Tim. We all should strive to live without regrets and with kindness and an open heart, but sometimes it takes an illness to make us realize that to LIVE means in this moment, at this time, and with the acknowledgement of our fragility and inter-dependence. For 40% it’s cancer; for others, heart attacks; for still others, a tragic accident. We only have today, and I appreciate so much that your blog, where you share your upbeat and open words, reminds me of that. It’s never been about the destination, but about the journey.

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  4. Hi Tim,
    When did you learn to write so well? I am truly impressed. Thoughtful and from the heart. You are adding to all of our collective consciousness.
    Thank you,
    Art

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  5. Hello Tim, as others have mentioned above you have such a wonderful way of writing your story. Your words are heartfelt and I simply love how YOU are so positive about your journey……..I feel that is the greatest medicine of all. Thinking of you,
    Kristen 🙂

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