15 More Things Cancer Taught Me

by GregP_WN

When you get the diagnosis, and the Doctor tells you, "you have cancer", life as you knew it has stopped, ceased to exist, and now your new life with cancer, has taken over. 

Things Cancer Taught Me

Ask any person on the street that hasn't had cancer what they know about cancer and you will get lots of generic answers. Like, "it's terrible", "it's a killer", "my Mom died from that", or "you don't have long to live" and old standards like "you get it from smoking" and "a bad diet caused it". There may be some truth to some of these, but the average person doesn't know what it's like to have cancer, and they don't know many of the things that we cancer patients soon learn.

What could cancer, possibly teach me? You might be surprised. These are some things cancer taught me:

1) In seconds, you go from being a person that had a busy life, lots of friends, a good job.....to being that person with cancer. Your life is now divided into two parts, Pre-Cancer and Post Cancer. Life as you know it can change forever in seconds. Before cancer plans were made around what we would be doing over the weekend. After diagnosis, all plans are made around when your next appointment is, or when your next treatment will be, and factor in how long it will take to recover from that. 

2) You will learn a huge amount about cancer, treatments, staging, chemo, radiation, and lots of other medical terms that you never thought you would even say, much less study and understand. The average person shouldn't have to know what it feels like to be violently ill for 4 hours straight, and then what it feels like to sleep for two days, with the occasional visit to the bathroom to either get sick again, or to try to have a bowel movement, or even to stop a series of them. You never know which you are going to get. 

Cancer Acronyms

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3) A person can handle an enormous amount of pain, stress, and mental agony. Some people have said that they often wondered if they would be able to handle the treatments, would they give up or be able to take it. Most do great, and power through what ever is thrown at them. The human body is stronger than you think!

4) A simple way to put into words what cancer has taught us comes from Mitch Tucker, a caregiver for his wife who has terminal cancer. He says simply, "It Sucks"!!

5) Your health shouldn't be taken for granted. How many times have you had a pain, or a suspicious spot on your skin, or even had to have surgery for a routine problem? Most people don't give their good health a second thought, they just brush it off as something that will run its course and things will be back to normal in no time. After cancer, you realize how fortunate you are if you can only just stay healthy long enough to __________. 

6) You will always be looking over your shoulder for the "next time". Once you have been diagnosed, treated and told that you are now in remission, you will never look at life the same. And you will always be looking for the next time. Every sore spot you have, every pain you feel, each time you see spots or get dizzy you will run all the possible types of cancer that it could be through your mind.

Staying Positive And Keeping The Fear Of Recurrence Away

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7) Certain things will cause flashbacks. You know how you can hear a song on the radio and immediately flash back to that point it time and maybe even what you were doing when that song first came out? The same thing happens in your cancer life, you smell heparin or saline, and instantly you are transported back to a time when you were sitting in "the chair". 

8) You learn who your friends really are. Some of them simply drift off, stop calling or coming by, and just fade away just like a movie screen fading to black. They're just gone. Where did they go? Why did they leave me now? Some of them said "just call me if you I can do anything". But they are gone. Others who you thought would never be there for you will step up and be a rock, supporting and helping all the way. Totally unexpected from many of them. 

Where Are All My Friends

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9) No matter how bad you have it, somebody else has it worse. When sitting in the waiting room of the treatment center, feeling as bad as you think you possibly can feel, in rolls someone on a hospital bed, being wheeled in for a treatment. All you need to do is look around for a minute and you will find someone that would gladly trade their life for yours. As hard as that may be to believe, it's true. 

No Matter How Bad You Think Your Life It

10) Bad hair isn't such a bad thing after all. Many cancer patients have lost their hair, and others are just beginning to grow their's back. But no matter what stage of hair loss/growing you are in, it beats the alternative. 

11) Cancer taught me to not sweat the small stuff. Those things that used to be a big deal or things that would drive you crazy. Like having the house spotless, being sure the car is always washed, or not going out of the house with a shirt that's a little wrinkled. After a diagnosis, all of these things and more, are now not a big deal. 

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

12) Cancer taught me to live each day like it could be your last. Because, quite simply, it could. At any time that you are driving down a highway, you are always 3 feet away from a potentially deadly accident. When you're a cancer patient or survivor, your next "bad turn" could take you down a road that you can't recover from. Live for today, enjoy life, buy the tickets, go to the concert!

13) Cancer taught me that remembering certain things will never happen again. Lists are a normal way of life now, the daily morning routine is to get dressed, gather up what you have set out in the middle of the floor (so you wouldn't forget it), and grab your list of what to do today. Things that are left hanging on the door knob are left behind, keys that are in your pocket are looked for sometimes for an hour. You never heard of the term "chemo brain" before, now you can give a 30-minute speech on what it is, why you have it and even share some unusual stories about your experience with it. 

I Have Chemo Brain What's Your Excuse

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14) Cancer has taught me that I can't do it all. Being in business for over 35 years I was used to doing everything myself, no delegation, just get it done. After living with the accumulating side effects from 3 cancer diagnoses, I have slowed down just a little and have learned that someone else has to be able to do some of the things. Letting go of control is hard. One of the hidden side effects of cancer is the loss of the ability to do some of the things you used to. 

15) Cancer taught me to not worry. How do you not worry about everything cancer, when you have or have had cancer? Easy, you just don't. This is an extremely hard thing to do, but my philosophy has always been to ask myself, is there anything that I can do about this situation? Is worrying about it going to change the outcome in any way? Then why waste your time, energy and add stress to your life? An old quote says the "Worrying doesn't take away tomorrow's problems, it just steals away today's joy."

After a cancer diagnosis, we all start learning. The saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". Maybe not, but you can certainly teach an old cancer patient some new words, definitions, procedures and an entirely new way of life.

What has cancer taught you? Please leave a few in the comments below. 

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