December 1, 2015

I Got Cancer & I didn’t become some New, Enlightened Being.

beer burger

Is there something wrong with me?

When someone gets cancer, is diagnosed with MS, tests positive for HIV, we hear that they suddenly get this new perspective on life. Those are the stories we love to click on when we are surfing the internet. What is supposed to be a tragedy becomes some beautiful story of strength, overcoming, and realizing what is important in the world. Everyone is inspired and we all feel a little bit less scared about the possibility of something like that happening to us.

Yet, for me, I got cancer—and the world around me moved on. The dog still needed to be walked and fed. I still had a mortgage to pay and so needed to minimize my time off at work to get treated. I still had to watch what I ate in order to avoid my fat jeans. I still argued with my partner. Nothing really changed within me or around me.

I wish I could say I got cancer and realized the importance of the relationships in my life. I kept in better touch with long-time friends. I became a better partner. I finally invited the neighbors over for that glass of wine on our patio. But none of that happened.

I wish I could say I got cancer and realized that I needed to follow my passion in life, that my current job was not what I wanted to do and I quit it to follow my dreams. But, I didn’t. Hell, I still don’t even know what that passion is. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and I am 45.

I wish I could say I got cancer and started living a gloriously healthy lifestyle. And that I have been taking such great care of myself. I eat only organic vegetables and ethically raised meat. I wake up every morning, jump out of bed, and go right to my gym with a smile on my face, so thrilled that I can move and breathe. And I do it all because I now appreciate health so much more.

Ha. Not even close.

I still struggle to avoid the chips and salsa at the Mexican restaurant. I still need about three cups of coffee to convince myself to get to the gym. I still care more about avoiding getting fat than actually being healthy.

Oh well.

I am going to stop trying to figure out what getting cancer is all about. It just happened. And it sucked. Most of us will experience some health problems in our lives. I’m no different.

The world doesn’t bend when sh*t happens to you. Nor does it transform you into some glorious, new version of yourself overnight. Not even cancer. The daily work to live well and happy, even in its most trivial manifestations, is still there. No matter how hard I try, I still worry that I am going to regret ordering queso with those chips the next time I step on a scale.

And maybe, just maybe, this means I am doing just fine.



3 Buddhist Tips for Living Life.

Author: John Coburn

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Yanko Peyankov/Unsplash

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