February 24, 2018

We Are More Than Our Illness.

For the first time, I found myself getting choked up while looking in the mirror yesterday.

And I notice a similar reaction from others when they see the effects chemo has had on my petite little body.

I don’t wear a wig, a hat, or a scarf. Not all the time, anyway. I embrace my beautiful hairless head, feeling like a bald princess, a badass warrior, a Buddhist nun. You see, I am embracing every single part of this journey—fully and completely.

After all, there are so many lessons to be received from it.

That doesn’t change the sadness I felt yesterday, or that others seem to feel when they see my balding head and frail body. And I notice I am treated differently because of it, too.

Like our local grocers, for example. Always kind, but now overtly so. Or folks in the neighborhood who never acknowledged me before I was bald, now make it a point to say hello at each subtle encounter.

Why are we automatically kinder to people who appear to have cancer? Is it because we feel sorry for them?

Being on this journey myself has actually revealed the many upsides to having cancer—most importantly, the impulse to slow down and welcome gratitude in its greatest form.

Cancer can motivate us to appreciate the most mundane things—like the ability to sit on the couch and watch TV, text a friend, or spend time with a difficult relative. It can motivate us to appreciate time spent sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, for Pete’s sake.

Ironically, I look forward to the most painful days after treatment—after all, it’s the perfect excuse to cozy up next to my devoted husband and four-legged child on the sofa, and do absolutely nothing except cuddle and watch Netflix.

On my best days, cancer motivates me to put all bullshit into perspective and be more productive. I no longer freak out over little trivial things that don’t matter and instead focus on my writing, helping my husband cook, and keeping our apartment, and our life together at sanctuary status—simple, neat, and organized.

It has revealed to me an amazing strength, a strength I always knew I had, but hadn’t yet come to the surface.

So why would anyone feel sorry for me? And why would I feel sorry for others with cancer too?

The answer is simple.

Cancer—ours or someone else’s—is beyond our control.

There’s no easy remedy. No quick-fix. It’s a disease within the body that can only be cured with major surgeries and loads of toxic chemicals, both of which take a significant toll on the soul who’s been stricken with it.

Whether it will recur and the amount of pain that may come with it, is a total crap shoot. After all, cancer is the end-all-be-all when it comes to suffering. The epitome of a slow and painful death. The worst of the worst.

But, trust me my friend. There is a bright side to it too.

So, next time you see a balding head and a frail body before you, please try not to stay stuck with the sadness or pity you may feel. Instead, know that there’s is a beautiful glowing soul inside that body who is receiving many lessons from this seemingly dreadful journey. And, perhaps, take a moment to imagine what it might be like to live each day as if it were your last.

What might you change or do differently?

Imagine if there was a grand reason to stop procrastinating and start living, and doing all the things you’ve always dreamed of. Or, better yet, a grand reason to be grateful for the life you have right now. The soul before you no longer has to imagine a reason. They already have one.

So just smile and carry on, knowing that we both have so much to be grateful for.



How Having Cancer Renewed My Faith in Humanity.

Author: Michele Coriale
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Kenni Linden
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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Michele Coriale