Everyone fears cancer. It’s the bugaboo lurking in the dark corner of the room; it’s what killed Aunt Lucy, and neighbor Kim, and the bald man who used to work in your office, and the kid in your child’s class. It’s the Big C. But as a person living with cancer, I suggest that it also has a silver lining that’s too often overlooked.
A cancer diagnosis makes you reassess the important things in life. It gives you permission to step out of the rat race and redirect your energy. It shows you the love that exists on all sides. It lets you revel in the loveliness of sunbeams, or newly-fallen snow, like a hippie blissing on LSD.
My silver lining is filled with love and beauty. Cancer can make each moment very similar to a mindfulness meditation. It enhances the importance of life itself. I relish each day that passes in a way I could not imagine back in the days when I assumed that life would go on and on indefinitely. Life is good, life is sweet; and all the more so after you realize that it is finite.
I’ve spoken with several people with cancer who agree that they have also found a silver lining in their lives. So why does our culture at large not publicize the fact that there can be an up-side to a cancer diagnosis?
Our culture has forced our idea of the disease into a one-size-fits-all mold of dread and fear. But not every cancer is alike, and not every diagnosis is a death sentence. More and more people are being successfully treated, or are managing to live for a while with the disease. Cancer is no longer something to speak of with hushed tones in the next room, out of hearing of the patient (or a dread fact to conceal altogether from the patient, as they used to do in the old days).
A cancer diagnosis is a serious matter, of course, not to be laughed at. My own form of cancer generally proves fatal within one to three years, even after chemotherapy. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t enjoy myself in the here and now. I believe that all cancer patients should be told that there is an up-side to be found. It’s baffling that emotional-health counseling is not yet automatically part of every cancer care package. Counseling is not considered to be an important and intrinsic part of the treatment, but is an extra that must be sought out, and paid for, by the patient. Counselors should emphasize the fact that there CAN be a bright side to a diagnosis. This will make a huge difference to patients’ well-being.
It will be a huge step forward when each new cancer patient is shown how to uncover that silver lining and use it to best effect in his or her daily life. Good health begins with healthy attitudes!