Does that title read, “The Gifts Cancer Gave Me” and has she lost what mind she has left you may be asking?  No, I have become even more clear about the gifts of cancer.

The year of 2017 was a year of intentional reflection for me; there were quite a few incidents that made me step back, pause and bite my tongue not to say “I should have” handled it this way.  With that said when talking with people, I try to encourage them not to let themselves be “shoulda” to death by themselves, friends or family.  The word “should” is very dis-empowering to me because it puts us back in a place of what I spoke about in an earlier blog of not feeling good enough.  When saying the word “should” it is guaranteeing the follow-up is going to be “but I didn’t.”  In the long-term when we tell ourselves or even someone else, we are reinforcing the negative and the fact we are NOT doing it. To you, this is may be small; for me, it was a life-changing gift that took being diagnosed with cancer for me to learn about being intentional in life and about my internal dialogue. Today, this part of my journey I want to share with you.

Cancer is so limited….

It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.

Author Unknown

This poem was one of the first that I read when initially diagnosed years ago with my first bout of cancer.  I was frantically researching the disease, searching for positive affirmations and signs that everything was going to be ok.  What I learned this poem will come full circle, and I’ll explain why. With the intentional thought the poem is correct but during the initial process and journey of learning to live with this new diagnosis and all that comes with it cancer CAN take all those things from you, it did from me until I determined to push the stop button and look at my life.  I had to look at places and situations that I didn’t like and intentionally decide what I needed to do to change it.  Not,”I should change this” I did change it.

To be completely transparent my first diagnosis I lost all of the things on the list.  Partly due to my grief, fear of the unknown and having faith but still trying to hold on to that control. That control we all hate to give up.   Don’t get me wrong we have control over many things in life, but the BIG PICTURE, we don’t.

One of the hardest things cancer took was losing friends, not because they didn’t care about me or want to support me, they left because of fear.  They didn’t know what to say, do, how to act, they gave the dreaded “look” that we cancer patients hate. I don’t judge any of the friends that could not stay on this journey with me, their season in my life was finished and I look back and appreciate that time. I do not look at it any longer as though I lost friends, life was just making room for my next chapter and new ones.  On the flip side, my gift,  still walking this journey after 20+ years of being told, “you won’t be here” I gained and met the most incredible people, some that became dear friends, including children with cancer that reminded me and gave me back the gift of laughter and faith. Those two, in turn, became the foundation to rebuild my list.  I had to choose however to be intentional in my mind and my actions.

I have so many gifts that I could share with you that cancer has given me, all of the ones listed above but so many more, but this is a blog, not a Hallmark movie.  You know the quote from Forest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolate, and you never know what you are going to get” cancer is kind of like that.  Yes, there are pieces I would rather throw away or stick it back in the box after the first bite. However, there are pieces of life so delicious that without cancer I would have gulped it down and not even really tasted or savored that delightful piece of chocolate.

Think about this; we hear the phrase, so and so is “battling” cancer, how are we battling something we did not even have the choice to step into battle with? I have called my self a cancer warrior who has chosen to walk with cancer, not fight cancer. It took me years to realize fighting cancer took to much negative energy which was depleting what life I have left, losing the quality and gifts of life.  If you know me, I’m all for the quality of life….. hence upsetting the apple cart once in a while because I don’t choose the traditional approach any longer, I choose what works for me.

I have shared many of my stories (gifts) of cancer with people, friends, and strangers, again a gift that may have helped one person.  Just like I encourage you to stop using the word “should” and like Nike says “Just Do It” do it!  Live your life with intention in all areas; celebrate each day, each person you meet.  Cancer can’t take away my dignity and my choice of how I walk the path with it.

Be Grateful. Have Faith. Be Kind. Believe. Find Your Tribe. Travel Your Oola Journey.