Diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 30, I was offered copious amounts of advice on “fighting” cancer. People warned me. Family, friends, neighbours, childhood acquaintances, complete strangers. They all had insights into what cancer treatment demands and how it changes life – how it would change me. But they left out so much. There was so much more they should’ve told me.
They should’ve told me how I would be in awe of my body.
It was a warrior, fighting every day for me. Even when faced with a seemingly impossible circumstance – an ovarian tumor the size of a football – it would try endlessly to protect and heal me on its own. After the insult of two surgeries, staples and stitches to piece me back together, it would endure. They should’ve told me that I would look at my scars as storytellers of the resilience of my body.
They should’ve told me that I would realize my mistakes.
My life would finally be in focus. I would discover beauty in small moments and gratitude would ooze from my pores. How sun rays feel on my face, even when it’s thirty degrees below zero. How a friend’s nose crinkles when telling a story. They should’ve told me that life on the other side of cancer is full of appreciation and wonder.
They should’ve told me how I would be ashamed of how I took my health for granted before this experience.
I didn’t give it a second thought. I was ignorant. It was something I deserved; I never thought about my health declining, even as I grew older. But cancer takes control, and my health was sinking. I was desperately trying to bail out a lifeboat but didn’t have a bucket. I had absolutely no control. I was desperate to go back to the way things were... but there was no going back. They should’ve told me how I would value every luxury a healthy body and mind offers.
They should’ve told me how much I would treasure my independence.
I would look back on the days I was so exhausted after chemo – those days where I could barely peel myself out of bed – and think how fortunate I am now. I’m able to sweep my kitchen floor. I have the energy to travel. The capability to walk to a coffee date. They should have told me how I would be forever grateful just to partake in life.
They should’ve told me I would discover my full potential.
Before cancer I loved a challenge: physical or mental, but I had limits... or at least I thought I had limits. Cancer highlighted my spirit and resilience. When it seemed I was at the end of my rope, I realized I could go much further. I realized I can endure much more than I ever thought was possible. I learned that if I inch forward, I’m still moving forward. Now, any challenge would be minuscule in comparison. They should’ve told me that cancer would instill in me the confidence to defeat anything.
They should’ve told me I would become fearless.
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