By Anees Chagpar, MD –blackdoctor.org
Everyday, we talk to people who are newly diagnosed with cancer…. To them, their worlds have just been turned upside down. They listen in shock and disbelief…. Wondering what just happened, and what will happen next…. It’s as though cancer has an inextricable power to hold people hostage. Despite the fact that we, as oncology professionals, can tout the advances in science and medicine, the skyrocketing survival rates, and the scarcity of side effects, patients linger on the thought of their own mortality. “What am I going to do?” many ask…. And while my answer is, “You are going to live your life,” for many patients, they do more – much more – than simply “living life”….. they thrive.
I rewatched Randy Pausch’s last lecture today…. He was having fun despite cancer. I remembered Terry Fox, whose courage to run across Canada raising awareness and funds was because of cancer. And I thought about the thousands of patients and survivors who, everyday, dare to dream bigger, love more deeply, enjoy life more thoroughly, and experience things they never would have before as a result of their diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong…. I certainly am not advocating for anyone to get cancer in order to more thoroughly suck the marrow out of life, but as I contemplated the poem, “What Cancer Cannot Do,” I thought about all of the things cancer can do:
What Cancer Can Do
- Cancer can put life into perspective
- Cancer can make you appreciate the little things you never noticed before
- Cancer can challenge you to take more risks, to dream bigger, to go further, to leap higher….
- Cancer can help you to say “I love you,” or “I’m sorry,” or “I’m grateful”
- Cancer can instill in you faith – whether in yourself, humanity, or a higher being
- Cancer can unlock an inner fortitude you didn’t know you had
- Cancer can make you humble
- Cancer can give you courage – to seize every moment and make it count
In short, cancer can make you live like you were dying…. Which all of us are (at different rates).