Photo by Peter Werkman
I remember being told about my biopsy. My doctor sat down and said, “I’m sorry; it’s melanoma.” I told him he didn’t need to apologize, and thanked him for his work. The news took a while to set in.
Truthfully, it was a chance to learn and grow. My pre-cancer schedule focused on work and building my wealth. My post-diagnosis schedule involved much more quality time with my amazing wife and daughter.
Seeing my child grow is a gift. I never knew I could love someone so much! Cancer pushed me to see what truly mattered.
Here are three ways I’ve put cancer on the back burner and started living my life to the fullest:
The First Step: Reprioritize
After diagnosis, life changed. My normal schedule simply wasn’t going to work (pun intended). Old priorities didn’t fit into my new life; I needed to re-evaluate. I saw what I had to do. Important things fell into place. The rest simply weren’t needed.
I used to hear that health is all that matters, but it wasn’t until I experienced sickness that this meant something to me. Work had become more important than taking care of myself—a bad habit for anyone. I also started to see my own mortality, which was a powerful perspective. Life’s not about material possessions; it’s about having a positive impact.
The Second Step: Create Quality Time
Cancer can actually create more time with loved ones. Since my diagnosis, my wife and I have grown incredibly close, and I feel I’ve grown as an individual as well. We used to fight over stupid things. I have realized that, no matter what, I am in love with this crazy Mexican woman, and she is a star for putting up with my own crazy stubbornness.
Throughout it all, she has been both pregnant and had her appendix out (yes, while pregnant), yet she would help me when I was vomiting. Right after chemo, I stopped eating for about a week, was constantly nauseated, and didn’t have any energy. Still, she would spend all day making me food—but, for all our efforts, I couldn’t keep anything down. She never gave up, and repeated the cycle of trying to feed me, unsuccessfully, over and over.
“Quality time,” sadly, isn’t just spending good times with each other, but about facing challenges together. Cancer treatments were horrible for both of us, but I am so grateful—they opened my eyes to appreciate my wife in new ways. I am even more thankful for our good times now.
I get to spend time with my daughter, too. We play together. We learn together: tying shoes, how to read… She is a wonder. It’s a privilege to be part of her life.
The Third Step: Talk and Share
We all know what cancer is—or do we? The more I learn, the more I understand how misinformed I was. I started a blog, focused on informing and talking about the things no one wants to.
What’s it like? Why did my doctor tell me to do this? Do I believe in God and an afterlife? Are enemas all they’re cracked up to be? In most settings, talking about these things is taboo.
I chose to open my blog to questions, because we are all curious. Thinking about the questions I receive reveals how I really feel. And who knows? Maybe others will get something out of it.
What All This Means
My lesson is this: Put cancer on the back burner, and let it give you positive things in your life. I don’t believe in ignoring what I am going through, but cancer is an experience. I choose to make it a positive one. Everyone dies, and everyone should truly live; this is why I always say cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me.
Since my diagnosis, I have been able to take a step back, look at my life, and set myself straight. Cancer was the kick that I needed to reprioritize, spend more time with my loved ones, and connect with new people. I don’t let cancer dictate my life, but I did let it change my life for the better.