While we are in the middle of a changing—whether it’s emotionally, mentally or physically—we suffer.
The process of change is akin to the last days before giving birth. I remember before my daughter was born, my skin was stretched so tight that I felt as if I would burst open. Even though I knew that I was on the precipice of an amazing creation, the pain of stretching felt unbearable.
Yet, when the moment of birth finally arrived, the pain subsided and my skin returned to normal. I was filled with the greatest love imaginable.
That’s the nature of change and the personal growth that comes with it. At times, you feel overwhelmed, but in the end you grow immensely.
I learned this when I faced a change in my health.
The tumor started in my intestines. When it was discovered, it was the size of a softball.
“It doesn’t have to be a death sentence,” the doctors said, “there was a way to beat this cancer.” As they overwhelmed me with treatment plans and information, all I could hear was the drumming of my heart in my ears.
I panicked. I cried. Then, I was forced to be brave. I was forced to find strength during the brutal battle against the cancer. At times, the treatment was so harsh that I felt it might kill me instead.
But I was lucky. In just a few short whirlwind weeks the tumor in my intestines shrunk to a size smaller than a walnut.
I was healed shortly thereafter.
Now that I look back, I realize that my cancer gave forth to many personal breakthroughs. It was a time full of difficulty that I now see as the pinnacle source of personal development in my life.
Here are the 3 ways that cancer made me a better person:
1. Learning to love and be loved with abandon.
We live in a society that praises independence and self-sufficiency. For a lot of us, we never experience truly unconditional love and support during our whole lives past young childhood. We refuse it.
Having cancer forced me to accept more help, love and support than I ever have in my adult life. My ability to love and be loved has been so very expanded by this experience. The depth of emotion that is open to those who are vulnerable is inexplicable. I learned the true meanings of mercy and compassion, even though at times I cursed how weak I had become. Now I see these times as true gifts and a privileged perspective into the goodness of humankind.
2. Embracing adulthood.
The physical and emotional trauma of being a cancer patient unearthed suppressed memories from childhood. These memories were always a silent undercurrent weighing me down in my life. For the first time, I met them face-to-face, which allowed me to finally assess them and put these memories to rest. This allowed me to fully grow up, and I now feel unquestionably ‘adult.’ My cancer was like a rite of passage, marking my full transition into maturity.
3. Learning how to truly forgive.
Like so many of us, I had undergone abuse of all kinds. Rejection, abandonment and neglect. I held on angrily to past hurts.
But when I was threatened with a slow and painful death through cancer, I saw how holding on to these hurts was causing me to suffer. I simply did not have the energy for more suffering. So, I forgave those and that which had hurt me in the past.
What I realized is that forgiveness is not about the people that hurt you. It’s about giving you peace. Holding onto anger does not hurt the person who had abused you—it only furthers damage to yourself. Only through the clarity that came with cancer was I able to realize this and finally learn how to forgive.
The moral of the story is, no matter how scary, stressful or worrisome life seems, there is always an opportunity for amazing growth. You might not understand how, but every change comes with a chance to become a more beautiful creation. Stand strong and keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Dear Cancer. Thank You.
Author: Bernadette Dickinson
Apprentice Editor: Annie R. Towns // Editor: Caitlin Oriel
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