Most of us probably look at our diseases as a weakness, and rightfully so. When I’m laying in bed after a chemo day, too tired to go cook myself ramens and my dog is looking at me with sad eyes because I haven’t let her out to pee yet, I certainly don’t feel like the world’s strongest man. But I think it’s important to realize what these types of experiences do for you. The notion “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” most certainly applies here. Well, it applies mentally. I can promise you that 26 rounds of ifosfamide and etoposide didn’t make my kidneys any stronger, that’s for sure.
I think it’s important to remember at times when you feel your weakest, that these are the moments that will make you the strongest. I used to be obsessive about working out because I wanted to be the biggest dude in every room I walked into. When people would pass me on the street, I would want them to take one look at me and think “whoa, I wouldn’t mess with THAT guy!” I don’t know why I wanted that so badly. Maybe it was a desire to protect myself and the people around me. Maybe it was an insecurity thing, or maybe even a self-image thing. Who knows. Next time I see Dr. Phil I’ll be sure to ask. The point I’m making is that even though I’ve got a gut now and my arms are about the size of two strands of overcooked spaghetti, I still feel like a badass sometimes because of what I’ve been through. And I think you should too.
It’s true, I’m very rarely the biggest dude in any room I walk into any more unless I’m in a kindergarten class. And that’s difficult for me. But what I do know, is that I’m sure as shit the baddest dude to walk into any room. Life has already battered me worse than any fist fight could ever do, so what do I have to be afraid of? Like, what are you gonna do? Punch me until I have more brain tumors? Get out of here with that nonsense. We as cancer patients have earned the right to be the most fearless people in the world. People treat us like heroes for what we go through every day, because we are. You think it’s not inspirational to see someone you care about lose their hair, lose their energy, lose their sense of safety, lose their future, lose their dreams, and still find a way to smile at the end of the day? You think healthy ol Joe Blow is gonna look at that and not think “wow. That person has so much holding them back and still finds a way to be optimistic. What am I doing sitting here with no baggage and letting life get me down?” Of course not! You have cancer, you can be an inspiration! You can show the world what it means to be fearless!
Sometimes it makes me feel better to think of cancer as an opportunity, rather than a threat. I mean, obviously cancer is an enormous threat. It threatens everything I know and love because it just might (and probably will someday) kill me. But ignore that, think about the opportunity to be great that is now at your feet because you have cancer. Don’t think of it as, “I should run a marathon because that would be monumentally impressive to do while having cancer.” You don’t have to achieve any one thing that is monumental, especially not a marathon because running is dumb. I mean more that if you can find a way to be hopeful in the face of so much adversity, you can be an inspiration. I don’t know what you want from your life, maybe you’re fine with just being miserable until the day you die. But if you want to achieve something special with the time you have left, cancer gives you the opportunity to turn what would normally be pedestrian into something great and momentous. Something inspiration. Something great. Something that will have people looking at you and thinking “I wish I could be like that person. Be that strong/passionate/fearless/positive/caring/mature/whatever.”
I dunno, maybe I’m just being egotistical and vain. But I’ve always wanted more from life than just a normal existence, and I like to think that cancer is my big break. My time to shine, to show the world what I’m really made of. And maybe you feel the same way.