I had an entirely different blog post planned for this week, but I find it difficult to concentrate because this week is an important week: Thursday will mark two years since my cancer diagnosis. Don’t feel sorry for me, because with that anniversary comes a significant event: today I get my port out.
The full name is “portacath.” It is a round silicone filled metal disk about the diameter of a 50-cent piece connected to a central line leading to a vein near my heart. The nurses accessed it to administer chemotherapy and draw blood. Once I finished chemo, it needed flushing every month. Although not time-consuming, it served as a monthly reminder of my diagnosis, which I preferred to forget. At times, I could feel it in my neck and chest. It didn’t exactly hurt, but it was a nagging reminder of everything I went through.
Not only the negative, however, but also the positive. A cancer diagnosis sucks, but without it, I wonder if I would have learned these lessons:
Fulfill your dream today.
I have always wanted to be a writer, and I have several pieces I’ve written, but I didn’t do it regularly and I kept thinking that to be a writer one had to publish. This is not true. It’s funny, because I always told my students this fact, but didn’t apply it to myself. Now I know that to do is to be: write and you will become a writer; paint and you will become a painter; play music, and you will become a musician. So, this leads to lesson #2.
Even if you do not reach your dream completely, just working towards it pays off.
The stories I write may never get published, but it doesn’t matter. The act of writing brings joy and completeness to my life. I find the same true with music. I play violin and viola, and although I may never play in Carnegie Hall, simply playing music completes my life.
Do everything to the best of your ability. Do you really want to be left with a legacy of mediocrity?
My mother taught me this lesson, but I continue to relearn it.
If you want to do something that scares you, do it anyway.
When I felt that lump over two years ago, I waited for months before saying anything out of fear. Eventually, fear drove me to my doctor’s office, and fear kept me on track with my treatments, but I also learned that fear kept me from living and even attempting those dreams I talked about in lesson #1 & #2.
Once you think you’ve reached your breaking point, just lift your head, shoulders back, take a deep breath, and continue. You’re stronger than you think.
My colleagues can attest to the days I sat in my office feeling sick, scared, and completely exhausted; yet, I had to go to class and teach. After feeling sorry for myself for a little while, I dug deep, breathed deeply, and walked into that classroom with a smile on my face. Teaching was so important to me that I refused to give in to my pain. Those are the days I learned that I was stronger than I thought.
Many people feel bad for me, and I felt sorry for myself for a while, too, but now that I’m on the other side of it, I feel lucky to have lived through it, and I’m thankful for all the lessons I learned from this experience. I could have done without the hair loss and the sick days, but to get to the good, sometimes you have to experience the bad. So here’s to life without a port and without cancer, and I hope that you can take these lessons to heart without having to experience cancer yourself.