I felt, back then, that detailing these losses told most of the story of my life. Cancer had taken so much from me.
Now I’ve lost much more to cancer—not from my own body or from the bodies of my immediate family, but from the many friends I’ve known in the ensuing years who have lost parts to this disease or who have died from cancer. There’s something about being a cancer survivor that connects me to others who are struggling with cancer. When acquaintances are diagnosed, they often come to me. Sometimes it’s because I’ve been there and I can share their experiences in the ways that no one else can. Sometimes it’s for insider knowledge—to help them to strategize a treatment. Sometimes it’s to grieve…to talk about what it’s like to lose a part of yourself and go on being “you.”
I don’t really remember anymore what life was like before my cancer. It’s been over 20 years now and my body feels right just the way it is—missing parts and all. Though I can’t say that I’m ‘grateful’ for the experiences that have come my way because of having had this disease, I am happy that it has helped me to reach out to so many people. There is something about being a cancer survivor that allows me to cross bridges of age, gender, race, and to be friends with people of all kinds. I love that part of my life. It feels good.
In every ward that I’ve lived in there are families who are in some stage of a cancer experience. It is a disease that has touched almost every family that I know. I’ll bet that you and everyone reading this post has been impacted by cancer somehow. We probably all have our stories of family members or good friends who have suffered with this disease. It’s odd how cancer ties communities of people together through a network of experience and loss. But it’s also the one gift that can come from such grief.