There’s something unsettling about seeing the most basic symptoms turn into a terminal cancer diagnosis.
I can’t tell you exactly when it happened. There isn’t a time that I can pinpoint to and think “that’s exactly when my way of thinking changed.” There was no tragic event that happened that caused my mind to jumble and there was never an “ah ha!” moment, but somewhere along the lines of seeing cancer everyday, things started changing.
A little over a year ago, I was at home playing with my dog and remember feeling a small lump on his back. My heart dropped and started racing. I remember laying him on the couch and combing his skin looking for other bumps. I remember looking in his eyes, his mouth and inspecting every inch of his skin. I racked my brain trying to think if his eating habits changed, his daily routines, was he more tired than usual? I remember thinking oh my god, my 3 year old dog has cancer. I remember calling the vet, getting him in for an emergency appointment and being so relieved when the vet did a full workup, although he felt it wasn’t necessary, to ease my mind. Fortunately, my boy was as healthy as could be, unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the last time I thought someone I loved had cancer.
Seeing cancer everyday has dramatically changed my care-free conscious, used to not be afraid of death mindset, but I could argue my case that seeing cancer everyday has changed my perspective on living life to the fullest, too. I have a phrase that I live by now that says “living my best life.” And by that, I mean doing things that I love when I have the chance to do them, not pushing them off until a more convenient time. By living my best life, I mean I’ve started saying yes to the things that are really important to me, and saying no to the things that I don’t want to do, despite the feeling of being obligated to do it. If there’s anything I’ve learned by seeing cancer everyday, it’s that tomorrow is never, ever promised. It’s that cancer comes, and it comes with a vengeance. Cancer doesn’t care how rich or poor you are, how big your house is, what color your skin is and what your paycheck looks like on Fridays. Living my best life means living life on my terms, and for that I am grateful for the outlook.
Seeing cancer everyday has also left me a little jaded. I find myself lacking sympathy for things I don’t find life threatening. I get frustrated hearing complaints about things that I don’t think will matter in the next week, or month. When I get a cold or a stomach ache, it’s hard not to allow myself to immediately go to a place of “at least you don’t have cancer!” because comparison is no place to live. I struggle with finding grace and patience for hearing people complain about their kids acting up, when I know families who would do anything in the world to have their kid act up again. There’s a fine line between offering a new perspective and letting the situation play out. It’s not an easy task, finding the balance of sympathy and apathy, but I’m trying.
Seeing cancer has changed my life in ways I would never have imagined 3 years ago. I’ve only aged 2 years, but my thinking and perspective on life feels like a decade worth. The everyday thoughts of something being wrong with someone I love, has admittedly not lessened. I still over analyze everything every kid that’s in my life does. I look for signs or symptoms of things I see on a daily basis in all of my family members. I probably have had more anxiety episodes in 3 years of seeing cancer everyday, than ever in my life. But I’ve gained things, too. I’ve begun living my best life, I’ve stopped worrying about things that won’t matter in a week, I’ve chosen my inner circle and I’ve chosen it well. I’ve learned to love from a distance, and how to love a child and their journey more than I could have ever known.
Seeing cancer everyday has brought new challenges, but it’s also brought me the strongest super-hero’s to ever walk this earth. I get to wake up every day and spend my work days taking care of and playing with kids who are stronger than me. One day, we’ll see an extinction in childhood cancer, but until then, I’ll face every emotion it brings while fighting for it’s death.