Cancer is not a battle, it's an attitude!

by DavalosMcCormack on March 31, 2009

I have a friend who has just undergone a mastectomy. She has cancer.  She recently came to a party we were throwing. Okay, it was our wedding.  I was afraid she would not be able to attend because she was going to have her first chemotherapy treatment the day before the wedding, but she came and had a great time.

In fact, she really had a better than great time. She had a radiant-hippie-free-love of a time!

You see, Cindy is one of my oldest friends.  I mean old as in knowing her for a very long time.

I’ve known Cindy since we were 12. I’ve known Suzanne since we were 8 and I met Suzi when we were 13.  They were all there at the wedding, sitting together warm in the glow of the event and the serene feeling of being with people you love and whom you  have known  “almost” your whole life.

In other words, Cindy was among dear friends who knew her before we all had bras.

I can only imagine how she felt being at a festive celebration like a wedding when just the day before she had to endure  4 hours of chemo. The change of scenery must have been a relief and a welcome experience.

So when, during dinner, Suzanne asked Cindy to pass the salt, Cindy said, “I’m sorry, I can’t…I have cancer.”  At first it was shocking, then we  looked at her face and we all began to laugh.

You see, Cindy said it like it was.  She continued to use this phrase each time someone asked her to do something.  Maybe you had to be there, but kids, it was funny, because Cindy has cancer and she is not running away, hiding it, keeping it to herself or becoming a victim of it.  She has it.  It doesn’t have her.

I’m going on Friday to sit with her for her next chemo.  I feel privileged that she will let me be there with her.  We will talk about everything and maybe even the cancer.  It’s scary.  We are scared but we are strong.

I have to say, I have been with people who are diagnosed with a disease and they become so frightened and alone with it that their life ceases to be defined by anything except the disease.

Dr. Emmett Miller talks about patients he has worked with who are diagnosed with lung cancer. “But doc,” they tell him, “I’ve never smoked! My uncle smoked 2 packs a day and never got it, Why me!”

Dr. Miller says there is anger, tension, and fear when a diagnosis is made.  He talks about the anxiety that takes over a patient, if they let it. Dr. Miller works with hypnosis and guided imagery to help people train the thoughts and tame the fears that disease creates in the mind.

I am beginning to understand a very simple lesson.  It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it.

So when Cindy says, “Sorry, I can’t pass the salt. I have cancer”  She’s actually saying “I’m taking care of myself, it’s okay to talk about it.  Take care, I have cancer. It doesn’t have me.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Suzanne April 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Brilliant and poignant article! This is so true. I remember the day the doctor walked in to my mom’s hospital room and bluntly told her that she had stage III or IV lung cancer, it was really the last day of her life. After that, she wanted to hide under the covers, both figuratively and literally. Her anxiety, fear and sadness were with her until the very end.

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