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The gifts of my cancer

cancer by Shari Laverty
It's amazing so much good, so much knowledge and compassion has come out of something so destructive. I've learned and lived a lot more since the day my doctor told me, "You have breast cancer."
   BREAST CANCER! Me? How can that be? I have three children in school, just married my soulmate, the love of my life, and I have so much still to do. My cancer had mestasized, spread to my lymph nodes, and was four years old when my husband found it. The shock quickly turned to action. Let's do whatever it takes to give me more time and let's stay positive.
   We did. It was a team effort: the unfailing inner strength and love of my husband, the sacrifices of my children when they couldn't get places and do things, the love of my family and friends, and the encouragement of my many doctors. I learned everything I could read or listen to about breast cancer so I could make informed decisions about my cancer, but later learned my knowledge was a gift to newly diagnosed women who needed answers to their questions from a patient's point of view!
   I learned how strong and incredibly blessed I was to marry my husband, how deeply he loved me, and I'll never forget how he never missed a chemo treatment with me and how he told me repeatedly how beautiful I was bald (and believe me, I wasn't). My cancer was a bonding experience for us, since we'd been married less than two months when it was discovered.
   I learned how short life really is and how much I've already lived. I learned that given a choice, I'd rather die of cancer and have time to prepare and say good-bye than die suddenly.
   I learned I had incredible friends who really rallied around me month after month. They prayed for me, visited me, cleaned my house, gave me a hat party, brought meals to my home, stayed with me at the hospital during tests, and so much more that I feel my words of gratitude are inadequate.
   I learned that a sense of humor is vital. I hope I learned how to be a gracious receiver and ask for help when I need it. I learned there are countless people who are wonderful and good--even to a stranger. I learned I am much stronger emotionally and physically than I had ever thought. I refused to dwell on my cancer and instead tried to focus on my family and work--even surprising myself.
   I learned I'm not a quitter. I learned there is more to me than breasts and hair. Now I try to look for the beauty in peoples' souls.
   Sure, having cancer was scary and the surgeries were painful and I've lost special friends, but at least for awhile, I'm here and I will be vocal about breast cancer because I don't want any of my friends to go through what I went through. So please make sure all the special women in your life have a mammogram.
   But you know, my life is richer and more precious because of the gifts of my cancer. Celebrate life. Seize the day and remember that life is a treasured journey.