A cancer diagnosis is an awful road. It’s frightening. It’s overwhelming. It devastates friends and family. It can foster some of the worst thoughts and emotions a person can have. Making the phone call to my parents to tell them about my diagnosis was the single worst thing I’ve ever had to do, and then I had to call them again, and tell them the news was much, much worse.
And yet, it can foster some of the best as well.
I have been overwhelmed with the love and well-wishes from those I’ve told about my diagnosis. The love I’ve gotten from strangers, from acquaintances, from friends, from family. If there is ever a time to circle the wagons, it’s when someone you know and/or love is facing battle with cancer.
Several weeks ago I attended a local support group for people living with cancer. The power in the room had gone out due to generator issues, which made for an unexpectedly eery atmosphere. People introduced themselves to me, with a friendly handshake and a knowing look: none of us want to be here, but here we are. I introduced myself, and received a warm welcome from the group, becoming more and more at ease as we talked. After the meeting was over, several of the women who were living with breast cancer came up to me and wrapped me in an embrace. I felt myself let go and sobbed big, heaving sobs at the magnitude of this diagnosis. Their arms comforted me, and I found respite in this group that truly understood the fear of live with cancer. Many had been to hell and back throughout the course of their treatments, and several had received diagnoses around my age as well. As my tears subsided, one of the woman said to me “you know, you will find there is tremendous magic in cancer.”
This struck such a chord with me. There is magic in cancer.
There is magic in cancer. Yes, magic.
And one by one, each told of the volume of kindness they had received throughout the course of their diagnosis and treatment. How people came out of the woodwork to give them love and open their hearts to show support. And I felt it, that magic, in the moment and the embrace of these women. There is magic in cancer.
There is magic in the realization that the best of humanity is lifting you up, praying for you, holding you close, reaching out and touching your life in whatever way they can. There is magic in the shift of your perceptions when faced with a deeper understanding of the fragile beauty of life, and the gift of your own mortality. There is magic in the community that forms around you and those you love when crisis touches your life. There is magic in the simple joys of life, felt so much more deeply when experienced alongside such deep pain. There is magic in the love you will feel for your child and your spouse, knowing what incredible gifts they are.
There is magic in cancer.
And strangely, there is magic in the timing. I am lucky I didn’t go forward with surgery or chemo, rendering me ineligible for many of the new, cutting-edge drugs. Apart from the cancer, I find myself so tremendously lucky. We have an amazing support system, a beautiful house we just moved into not two months prior to my initial diagnosis, some of the best doctors in the world managing my care, friends and family who have continued to provide an outpouring of support, and seek to give of themselves, to alleviate this burden from us in whatever ways they can. We have a beautiful child who completes our family. Regardless of the story held in trust by the future, we have so much now. And thank goodness for Dr. F, who found my tumor before it got worse. Thank goodness for the angels who pushed us for a second opinion, and led us to a doctor who could give us a more accurate diagnosis. For technology. For research. The list can go on for a very long time.
There is magic in cancer.
The depth and breadth of my life has expanded tremendously since my diagnosis. While I continue to mourn the loss of a life I loved, I sometimes think that being forced to grapple with this illness has been a blessing. Cancer is a lens in which that which matters most can shift into perfect clarity. I refuse to allow my anger and sorrow to dictate my life, and instead, choose to wrap myself tightly in the comfort of those who continue to lift me up. I am only starting on a path that will have lots of struggle, stress, pain, and challenge. It is some ways easy to stay optimistic when there is unknown. However, this path is entirely unknown. While there is so much we don’t know, there is also so much that is waiting to be done. Things that may develop that change the course of my treatment for the better. And there is a randomness to the universe that provides some comfort as well. This is not a burden placed on my shoulders to carry but that leaves the rest of the world’s burden light. Everyone faces their own challenges and demons, and life carries with it the possibility that things will change in an instant. This, one of few certainties, has provided me with a measure of peace.
There is magic in cancer.