It seems strange to be fighting Stage IV lung cancer and still talking about being grateful. But, grateful I am. For so very, very much.
First and foremost, I am grateful for my faith. Without the knowledge and belief that there was something more, something that comes after this life, I think I would be bereft. Instead, I believe this earth is temporary for us all (a belief all should hold since surely no one disputes that we all die at one point). Heaven is our reward. It is our final home. Imagine the moment in your life when you have felt the most loved and content … now imagine living like that forevermore.
I don’t want to die. I’m not ready to leave my family and my beloved dogs behind. But, when I go, I am going somewhere far superior to here!
I am blessed. My family is small, but we all love one another. We don’t get to see our grandchildren any longer, so there are just my mom (who at 85.5 years still plays bridge several times every single week), my brother, my husband, and my son in my immediate family. I also am blessed to have some cousins that I am close to and whose company I enjoy immensely. I think my cancer has brought us closer. It has certainly encouraged us to make the effort to get together. We might not have otherwise actually followed through and done so.
I consider Cotton and Barney a very vital part of my family. They bring me great joy every single day.
I can be sad, sometimes, because I feel like people I considered friends before I was diagnosed have moved on and left me behind. They remember me on occasion, but mostly, I am in their past. That hurts. But, it makes sense. I would be guilty of doing the same. We can’t be expected to quit living our own lives because someone among us can no longer keep up. But, when you are the someone who can’t keep up, it causes pain. I try to distance myself from Facebook most of the time so that I am less aware of all that is going on that I am no longer included in.
On the plus side, I have made some of the most awesome friends ever since I was diagnosed. I would not have become friends with some of the people if not for the cancer. Some new friends are others who are in this club that no one wants to join. No one except someone else who is fighting cancer can fully understand what it is like. I’m not sure that even someone else with cancer truly understands what a colleague is going through. For instance, I don’t understand people that wallow in self-pity and that concentrate on the problems they face rather than looking at the positives. They are so miserable and unhappy. In my own opinion, they are letting cancer win the battle while they still have life.
It is highly, HIGHLY likely that I will ultimately die from my cancer. (Hopefully, it won’t be real soon.) But, right now, I am alive. I feel pretty darn good. I don’t have the stamina that I probably would if I wasn’t in this fight for my life, but I have a lot of willpower. Where my stamina lets me down, my willpower often takes over. Cancer teaches you, if you will let it, to enjoy every single moment. A flower takes on new beauty. A fragrance is breathed more deeply. The wonders of God (the sky, the mountains, trees, babies… the list is endless) are so very precious and magnificent and appreciated in ways that they never were before. The joy of being with friends (two and four legged) is that much greater because you appreciate that these times may be limited.
Life is different now than it was before I was diagnosed with cancer. There’s an innocence that is lost when you get that diagnosis. You learn you are a whole lot more vulnerable than you realized. It doesn’t just happen to others. Nope, it can and it did happen to you.
But, if I were asked to honestly respond with whether I would change anything about my existence, I think I would say “no.” I have learned so very much about myself and about others on this journey. I don’t think I would trade that.
I learned that I am strong. Much stronger than I ever imagined.
I learned that I am resilient. I can withstand a hard knock.
I learned that happiness comes from within. We spend way too much time looking for happiness in all of the wrong places.
I learned that there are some really fabulous people in this world. And I am blessed to have some of them in my life.
I learned that some people are acquaintances that I enjoy but that I can’t count on. This has been a really hard and painful lesson.
I learned that a kind word, a phone call, a card, any simple gesture can make a day. And, I hope I have learned to be more generous with those gestures myself.