I’m feeling very grateful tonight. Grateful that I am part of the cancer community. I am grateful for those of you I’ve met and corresponded with and talked to on the phone. Those I’ve met in person in my community. Just since publishing my web site I’ve communicated with over 220 appendiceal cancer patients. I now know several more diagnosed with other cancers in my community.

But today was an especially great day in that sense. It just happened today that I interacted with a lot of people affected by cancer.

At first, just after I was diagnosed, I was uncomfortable around others battling cancer. It made me feel vulnerable. I wanted to be back in the “before cancer” world, the “normal” world.

But us cancer survivors (all of us alive with a cancer diagnosis or history, even the day after) share some very profound differences from the rest of those around us who haven’t battled cancer. A woman who has never battled cancer commented today that the best defense was a positive attitude. Us cancer survivors who were there knew better…..you can’t be positive all of the time after diagnosis. Sometimes we’ve had to put on a positive front as those around us were sure we’d die if we didn’t stay positive, so we pretended to be positive to make them feel better when we struggled. All of us who’ve dealt with cancer up front and personal have had negative moments, we all admit to times of downright depression. And that’s okay, that’s normal. Please read:

The Tyranny of Positive Thinking

from the book “The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty”, it helped me a lot.

Those of us who have battled cancer also live our lives one day at a time. Most of us who have some time in the battle no longer fear death, so comments from the rest of the world like “I know you’ll have many more years” are really not very meaningful to us. We no longer care about the quantity of our time, we are all about quality and meaning and purpose. My dentist today said I may need dentures in another 15 years. His employee, the cancer survivor, and I looked at each other and smiled when he said that, we both acknowledged his difference in perspective. In some ways, he seemed from another planet. Fifteen years to us has no relevance, we don’t even contemplate a decade from now. She and I just want to raise our kids to adulthood, teeth or no teeth. I’ve almost been alive long enough to see my kids become adults, anything more than that is bonus time. Her kids are younger, she wants to live at least long enough that her kids remember her. We don’t think to even ask for old age or retirement post cancer.

And as we acknowledged our perspectives wordlessly when we looked at each other, I felt so understood.

I was so grateful for a day of being around cancer survivors, grateful that I was part of the cancer community. I was grateful for my new perspectives.

In many ways, cancer is a gift.