Perk # 70: Cancer Gave Me A New Way Of Marking Time

On March 15, 2011, I sat in my living room with a few friends, celebrating my friend Sherry’s 44th birthday.  Eventually the conversation came around to Michelle, an acquaintance of ours who was dying from a very aggressive form of breast cancer.  I said, “Look around you ladies.  With the stats as they are, there is a good chance that one of us could get breast cancer.”   Hey, I didn’t mean ME!  I meant Sherry, Jackie or Madonna.  Surely I wasn’t going to get breast cancer.  I was young, healthy, fit, and had no family history.  As if some creepy premonition were unfolding, I found it the very next day: a lump in my left breast.   Life would never be the same.  I do not remember the exact day that I received my diagnosis, or when I had my biopsy or lumpectomy, but I will always mark March 16th as the day cancer came into my life (completely uninvited, I might add).

People mark time by major life altering events, such as when you get married, have children, or move to a new city.  Cancer has become my new way of marking time.  It is as if a line was drawn through my life, and everything has become referenced to the cancer.  When did I buy my Kia?  2011 B.C. (before cancer).   When did Shawn and I take our first holiday together?  2012 A.D. (after diagnosis).

My Grandmother's 90th birthday, Dec. 2010, B.C. (Me, my daughter, my mother and my grandmother)

Ben's 6th birthday, May, 2011, A.D.

You may be thinking that life A.D. cannot possibly be as fulfilling as life B.C.  But that is not necessarily the case.  I believe that happiness and a positive attitude are choices that people make every day.  After I had gone through the grieving process, which took about six months, I was faced with a choice.   I could choose to focus on the pain, suffering and utter devastation that is cancer.  There is no denying that few things in life can rival a cancer diagnosis for the award of “worst thing that could ever happen to you.”  Cancer brings with it the terror of facing an untimely death; uncomfortable and painful treatments and procedures; loss of identity; coming to grips with a new body image; strained relationships; and financial setbacks or ruin.  That is the reality of cancer.

But for some “fortunate” cancer patients, the diagnosis brings with it another reality.   When faced with their mortality, some people come to realize what is really important in life, and then to go on make life altering changes.   I am one of those fortunate people.   What gifts has cancer given me?   Perk # 13: Cancer boosted my self esteem.  Perk # 21: Cancer helped me to find my soul mate.  Perk # 25: Cancer connected me to a powerful prayer network.  Perk # 28:  Having cancer revealed to me a whole new side of my autistic son.  Perk # 34:  Cancer made me realize my own strength.   Having cancer forced me to evaluate my life and make some major changes.   I ended some relationships which were not serving me well, and put more of my energy into those which were.   I identified work environments which were toxic to my spirit and embraced a change in my career.  I started to feed my body nutritious foods, and made exercise and meditation an important part of my day.  As ironic as it may sound, this past year with cancer has been one of the happiest of my life.

Would I give up my cancer?  Absolutely, in a heartbeat!   However, I would not part with the changes that cancer has forced me to make in my life.  Some say that a positive attitude alone cannot cure cancer.  I agree.   However, a positive attitude combined with positive action will give me the best chances of surviving this disease.   If I live another forty years, it will be wonderful thing if I can look back on this year and say that I lived it with happiness, joy and grace.  If I live only one year, then it is even more important that I be able to say I lived it that way.   For that reason, I choose to fight cancer with attitude-a positive attitude.

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25 thoughts on “Perk # 70: Cancer Gave Me A New Way Of Marking Time

    • I don’t think it is possilbe for anyone to maintain a positive attitude EVERY day. So don’t worry if it is a struggle. Let’s face it, cancer sucks! I think it is just as important to allow yourself to feel the shitty emotions associated with cancer, as it is to try to remain positive overall.

  1. Florence you certainly have may the right decision to be positive going through all these treatments, surgery etc. It certainly gave you time to think seriously about your life and what changes you want to make. Keep with your attitude and your blogs, they are so important to your healing and others out there that need your positive energy. YOU GO GIRL!!!!!! Happy Friday to you. 🙂

  2. Florence, As a woman and mom of three precious children (8, 15 & 18) and a single mom at one point in my life. I admire your positive attitude towards fighting cancer, I truly hope that if I were to face a life changing illness that I could face it with the positive attitude that you have. I admire your strength and determination! I don’t know you, however, I know of you through friends and I have prayed for you and your children and will continue to do so. Sincere best wishes and positive thoughts! Michelle Dober

  3. Cancer certainly is life altering. You have made the most of your situation Flo. Good for you. You will never realize what a difference your attitude has made to other people’s lives. Maybe that is God working through you, to spread the message and
    be a role model. I hope and pray that I am not afflicted by cancer, but if I do, I sure hope I can have your attitude. Have a great weekend and May the Luck of the Irish be with you.

  4. I’ve been off work since January when I started chemo. In that time I have seen a marked change in the behaviour of my 7 yr old twins boys. It’s only this past week that I realized that having mom now as a stay home mom is the reason. I’m normally working overtime in the operating room, teaching an exercise class and in hindsight not being a very patient mother. While I have new stresses…u think….. I’m more patient and appreciate what fine boys I have. This cancer perk of realizing parenting mistakes I was making will stay with me when i return to work. Less overtime!!!!! Now to just get thru the last 3 rounds of chemo.

  5. I admire your strength and positivity throughout your entire ordeal. You WILL beat this thing. And beat it baddddd too!!!!

    Stay sweet Flo and have a wonderful weekend.

  6. Yours are words to live by – cancer or not! You are an impressive person and I admire you so much. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. This is a fantastic post and, I think, a perfect summation of the good things that can come from a cancer diagnosis. We have a choice and I’m so glad that you made the choice to embrace positive changes instead of being mired down by the negative aspects of cancer. Hope your radiation is continuing to go well!

  8. Aunt Florence, you are such an inspiring character- one I’m so glad is in my everyday life. You have just done something incredibly hard, made me cry with your words of wisdom. I love you so much, and in four years, when we look back on March 16th, celebrating your cure, I’m sure you’ll make me cry again- with tears of happiness.

  9. Florence, I am 10 years out ~ diagnosed New Year’s Eve 2001 w/BC and i celebrate every NYEve with gusto because it’s been another year that I’m still here ~ same thing with my birthday.
    Love your posts! Keep blogging…and know you have a friend in me.
    Hugs.

  10. Flo, I just recently stumbled on your blog while looking for inspirational quotes to you for work. I am so glad that I did and wish that I had sooner. I have a diagnosis of APML (acute promyelocytic leukemia) and was diagnosed Feb 2013. I have found your blog to be a gift and I can relate to so many things that you have said. Thank you so much for sharing your journey . I wish you much luck in your continued journey.

  11. Flo, I just recently stumbled on your blog while looking for inspirational quotes to use for work. I am so glad that I did and wish that I had sooner. I have a diagnosis of APML (acute promyelocytic leukemia) and was diagnosed Feb 2013. I have found your blog to be a gift and I can relate to so many things that you have said. Thank you so much for sharing your journey . I wish you much luck in your continued journey.

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