If Cancer Was a Gift
I Would Have Returned It a Long Time Ago
by Laura Parisi King, LMSW
It is absolutely maddening to me when people say that cancer is a blessing or a gift. “It wasn’t until I got cancer that I started to live my life,” they say. “I didn’t realize how wonderful my life was until I got cancer.” “After going through treatments for my cancer, I learned to meditate and started to take yoga classes.” “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” ARGHHH!
As a social worker, a woman living with stage IV breast cancer, and the caregiver for my husband who is living with advanced prostate cancer, I can tell you firsthand that cancer is not a gift. It is not a blessing. It is nothing more than a horrible, relentless, painful, uncertain, and frightening disease. Calling it anything else simply validates the cancer as the powerful force in your life when in reality the powerful force is you.
How wonderful it would be to give yourself, not cancer, the credit.
You had the courage to live your life in spite of this tremendous challenge. You came to the realization that your life is wonderful even with cancer as a part of your reality. You made the decision to take yoga and to meditate. Cancer did not make any of those decisions for you. How wonderful it would be to give yourself, not cancer, the credit for that.
I would love to see the men, women, and children who face this disease and take something positive from it be recognized for their bravery, strength, courage, and determination. It takes a certain type of person to forge ahead and bring meaning to the unfortunate experience of having cancer. How easy it would be to curl up in a ball, lay in bed day after day and say, “poor me.” How easy it would be to become a bitter, angry, and resentful person. Quite frankly, I get offended when people say that cancer is a gift. If cancer was a gift, I would have returned it a long time ago.
In a way, I respect those people who choose to see cancer that way. Perhaps they are trying to see the light through the darkness in the only way they know how. But I encourage my clients and my readers to see it another way. Instead of being thankful for the “gift” of cancer, be thankful for the gifts of strength, courage, and faith. Be thankful for the blessings of family, friends, and community members who help you through the physical and emotional pain. Rejoice in yourself. Give yourself much deserved credit for being a fighter, for not giving up, for taking a life-changing experience and making the change a positive one. Acknowledge yourself as the gift and the blessing that you truly are.
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Laura King is a social worker, a public speaker, and the author of the inspirational book Dear Cancer (available at www.authorhouse.com).
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2008.