Words from Julie, a happy fun-loving lady…
“True wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”
-Henry David Thoreau
“Until recently, I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with cancer. When I was in high school, my grandmother died after a malignant melanoma spread to her lymph nodes and quickly spread throughout her body. It began with a strange looking mole on her chest, right where her bra strap was. She was too embarrassed to tell her doctor about it until it was too late and the cancer had spread. At the time, cancer felt to me like an old person’s disease. She was in her mid sixties. Looking at my parents now, that age doesn’t seem quite so old, but still, older than me. Older than my friends. Cancer doesn’t happen to healthy, active, young people, right?
Many years later, cancer did happen to someone like me. Someone my age. Someone healthy and active. It was a brain tumor. The treatment was aggressive. He rode his bike to his chemo appointments. He enrolled in clinical trials. He got better, and then got much, much worse. He died almost a year and a half ago at the age of 41. Cancer isn’t picky. Cancer can affect anyone, even people who are healthier, nicer, and more deserving of a good, long life than I am. And then Kim. Lung cancer. What? How is that possible? Kim is my friend. How dare cancer do this to her? I get angry at the blatant unfairness of it all. Kim doesn’t deserve this. Neither did Tim. Neither did my grandma. Neither did anyone, ever.
It’s difficult to really explain how Kim’s cancer affects me without felling like a self-centered ass. Who am I to complain? I find myself talking about things like wrinkles and sore muscles and my jerky boss, and then realizing how thoughtless those comments can be. Who am I to complain about getting older?, or having a job, or really, anything that I can complain about. Heck, I don’t know if I am going to get old. I don’t know if my friends are. What I do know, and the one thing I have learned from Kim is that you don’t always get to choose what happens in your life. You do get to choose how to deal with it. Sure, I can go on being angry at the unfairness of it all, but does that really change anything?
Is it weird to say that I’m proud of Kim? Because I am. I know there are good days and bad days, but Kim has gracefully taken charge of her situation, and I know there are many people, myself included, who have benefited from her pragmatic yet positive approach to her treatment, prognosis, and living with cancer. When Kim isn’t afraid to talk about it, it helps me to be stronger.
So here’s what I try to do. I try to think before I speak. I try to be more thankful. I try to be a good friend. I try to be a better, more thoughtful person. It doesn’t always work out the way I plan it in my head, but nothing ever does. No one plans for this. No one expects it. We will all deal with it eventually.