Cancer can take so much from us -- joy, money, health, and often, even those we love. My family has experienced all of these things, the greatest loss being watching my beloved Dad who passed away on Thanksgiving after his courageous three-year battle with cancer. His passing left me heartbroken and feeling like there was nothing positive I could gain from this disease.
These last few months I have had a lot of time to reflect on the past years with my Dad and the moments we shared together. Road trips, game nights, him teaching me how to make bread, and laughing until we cried. It almost feels like all the happy moments have overshadowed the sad times. Up until his last few months he was visiting his favorite places in Europe and reliving experiences with friends as they spent time reminiscing about their youth. It almost felt like he was vibrant and invincible, and our lives were the happiest they've ever been. So much good came from the last three years and I am finally realizing why.
When my Dad was diagnosed in October 2016 our outlook as a family changed. We were able to recognize that our time together was limited and that left us wanting to cherish every minute we had. The disease that seemed to completely disrupt our life actually ended up teaching us to love the very things we took for granted. For me, cancer taught me to love time, family, and the power of perspective.
Cancer taught me to love time. Added time meant more moments together. We made sure to go on those family trips, attend that play, spend time around the kitchen table, and have countless game nights. Goodbye hugs weren't taken for granted and gratitude journals became more common than social media posts. Understanding that he may pass away sooner than expected helped us realign our priorities. We decided that our joy doesn't have to end and time doesn't stop, so why should we?
Cancer taught me to cherish family. We didn't know how long we would have together, and each of us made the conscious decision to put family above everything else. We made a concerted effort to say “I love you” more regularly and not leave each other without a hug and meaningful goodbye. Moments with Dad were everything because we never knew when that moment might be the last.
Cancer taught me that my perspective is everything when facing a challenge -- and there were MANY challenges. As a family we came to recognize that we needed to let go of what we couldn't control and instead learn to relish what we could. While we are still far from perfect, this perspective cultivated a positive outlook about our situation and made the mountains feel more like hills.
Now dealing with cancer is still hard, and I think in some way it always will be. But I do think my relationship with cancer has improved as I've changed my perspective. This disease encouraged me to value my time more, cherish my family and reminded me that perspective is everything. And for that I'm forever grateful.
Now it's your turn. Whether you are patient, caregiver, family or friend, what has cancer taught you to love?
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