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Cancer’s Other What If's

Cancer brings a cycle of unwanted questions. What if it spreads? What if it comes back? What if I die?

Last week, I had a little medical issue – nothing serious. I took the meds they gave me and then noticed its peculiar side effect: sore tendons. While I limped around, my cancer what-ifs became haunting. Every painful step reminded me that health is precarious, life is fragile, and time is running out. Instead of taking my health snafu in stride like I would have before, cancer fogged up my brain.

Part of the challenge of living with cancer is coming to terms with life’s great mystery: We all know we’re going to die, but we don’t know when.

But I do know that I don't want that question to cloud the time I have.

So, as my new pain settled in, my tendons ached, and my mind swirled, I decided I needed to reframe my questions.

What if, along with the angst cancer brings, it delivers a gift, too. Not just for me, but for everyone who loves me, for everyone witnessing my journey and taking part in it in their own way?

What if cancer motivates me to value quality over quantity, and if only for an instant, I experience a sense of eternity in a single precious moment?

What if cancer teaches me not to say later, but instead to say now? What if it dares me to take more chances?

What if it prompts questions that inspire wisdom and lays bare a path to forgiveness and letting go? What if it teaches me to say "no," and other times to say "yes!"

What if my experience with cancer helps me embolden one person to quit a dreaded job and start something exciting and beautiful? What if that person finds their calling and uses it to change the world?

What if it inspires art and the fearlessness to share it?

What if cancer creates space for joy, love, hope, and faith?

What if cancer reveals life at its core and peels it back to the sweet kernel of truth and perfection that resides within every human being?

In “The Diary of a Young Girl,” Anne Frank wrote, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” What if the wisdom of a 14-year-old — a girl even younger than my beautiful daughter — shows me what is truly possible. We all have what-ifs. I vow to focus on the great ones.


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