Lessons Learned from Cancer

In the October issue of clutch I wrote an article on “Caring for the Caregiver”. They say to write what you know, and so that’s what I did. I am 28 years old. In my life time 5 women in my family have been diagnosed with cancer. Three have died, and two have survived. And all have taught me a lesson … life is short.

When I was 16 my grandmother would ask me every few months if I had any school pictures I could send her. I didn’t and never got around to finding snap shots to send her, until my grandpa passed away suddenly that February. That week I went out a portrait studio and had photos taken of me to send to her. I picked up the photos a few weeks later. I threw them on my desk, and they got lost in a pile of homework. I went to visit my grandma that spring and didn’t remember to take the pictures. In fact I didn’t think about those pictures again until June when grandma died four days after being diagnosed with cancer.

I learned an important lesson that year. At 16 it’s easy to think you have all the time in the world and that intentions are what matter.

Six years later I was having a fight with my husband of 3 months. I stomped down stairs and picked up my phone to see I have a crazy number of missed calls and voice mails. My 30 year old sister had gone in for a minor surgery that day and came out hours later after having major surgery to remove ovarian cancer. I instantly forgot what we had been fighting about and could do nothing but sit in shock next to my husband the rest of the night. Youth doesn’t guarantee health.

Two and a half years later I was sitting on the floor watching my daughter play with her toys and folding laundry. I answer the phone only to learn that a biopsy on an abnormal spot on my mother-in-law’s arm showed melanoma. A year of treatments followed while I watched my “healthy” mother-in-law get sicker and sicker.

I am so abundantly thankful that my sister and mother-in-law are still with us. Surgeries and treatments have spared their lives and have time to make so many more memories.

And so that is what we do:

  • We embrace the moments given to us.
  • My husband takes time off work so we can travel to see out of town family.
  • Sometimes I travel without him if he can’t get off work to ensure my children have memories and experiences with my in-laws.
  • We tell stories.
  • We make phone calls on birthdays.
  • We post pictures on Facebook for family that couldn’t be present at birthday parties and first days of school
  • We say I love you … A LOT.

Whatever it takes to make the most of the now, because what I learned back when I was 16 is still true … life is short.

~ Joy



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