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What Cancer Means to Me Now

by Patricia Prijatel

I sometimes play the “what if” game. What if I had never moved to Iowa? What if I had more kids? What if I had been born rich? What if I never had cancer?

Nothing good ever comes from play­ing that game, and adding the cancer card doesn’t make it any more fulfill­ing or fun. I have no idea how my life would have been different without cancer. I do know that I am a different person from who I was before I got sick, and I like this person better. She has a much broader view of what life means than she used to.

I am more introspective, more un­derstanding, more thoughtful. I was OK in these areas before, but I feel cancer added another layer to my per­sonality, an ability to look deeper, to care more about others, to see what I had been blind to before – the fact that my life is good and it is up to me to keep it that way and, perhaps, try to make it better.

I will never consider cancer a gift, although others say they see it that way. I do have to acknowledge that it has made me live a more rewarding life. I wish I could have done that on my own, without this scare, but it didn’t happen that way.

Cancer was not a blessing, but it did help me see the blessings that surround me.

Cancer was not a blessing, but it did help me see the blessings that sur­round me – my family and friends, my career, my mind, my overall health. I eat healthier, I exercise more purposefully, I do yoga, I meditate. My husband, Joe, and I found a new church and, through it, have become a part of a community that makes me think about small, meaningful moments, big re­sponsibilities, and how I live my life as a good person. I drink less. I see my acupuncturist regularly, just because she calms me so much.

That’s another thing; I feel so much calmer than I ever have in my life. I get a sense of calm through meditation and prayer, by talking with good friends and family, and by taking deep breaths. I get there by looking at the beauty around me and just enjoying it.

Three years after my diagnosis, my first grandchild, Tarin Gram, was born. Eighteen months later, we welcomed his brother, Eli Finn. I am so grateful that I have seen the birth of these two beautiful little boys, and I plan to be around to see them grow up. I’ve hap­pily returned to the classroom part time, and I lead several writing work­shops, so I am once again in the midst of students.

All is well now. But I really wish my hair had stayed curly.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Patricia Prijatel is a triple-negative breast cancer survivor and an E.T. Meredith Distinguished Professor Emerita at Drake University in Des Moines, IA. This article is adapted from her book Surviving Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, which is available on amazon.com. Check out Patricia’s blog at HormoneNegative.blogspot.com.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2014.

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