Cancer Has Its Upside.
The ‘C’ word… CANCER – it’s a word that shakes people to their very core.
Being faced with your own mortality or that of a loved one, is one of the most emotionally challenging experiences you will ever encounter.
Six years ago I experienced it on a personal level, being diagnosed with Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans: a rare type of skin cancer that only one in a million people get (lucky me). Thankfully after two operations and a large chunk of my back being cut out, the surgeon was able to remove the cancer with a clear margin.
This affected me on a very deep level, but strangely what emerged was years of bottled up emotions from my Father’s cancer battle that started when I was twelve years old. He was diagnosed with an aggressive type of throat cancer in 1997 (my first year of high school).
When I heard the ‘C’ bomb, it completely turned my little world upside down. I shut down – emotionally detached. I refused to talk about it with anyone; in my innocent little mind I believed that if I pretended it wasn’t real, it would simply go away.
It of course did not, and my unprocessed pain started to emerge in self-destructive ways. I rebelled at school, breaking just about every rule I could – and that’s only when I bothered to attend at all. I skipped more days than I attended that’s for sure! I lost close to ten kilos just from sheer stress.
By the age of fifteen I had dropped out of school, moved out of home and started my deep decline into the world of drugs. Going to nightclubs, partying and numbing my pain through drugs quickly became my favourite pastime. It was the only way (at the time) that I could escape this overwhelming emotional pain.
There was, of course, many other contributing factors in this downward spiral, but Dad’s cancer diagnosis hit me hard at what I believe is already a very fragile age. His cancer was an ongoing battle, in fact, it was fifteen years before Dad’s poor little body finally lost the fight.
I’m not going to lie it was fifteen years of what I can only describe as an emotional rollercoaster ride. There were many hard and unbearable moments, but on the flipside, a lot of beauty came from Dad’s cancer as well.
His fighting spirit was nothing short of inspirational, and that example of ‘never give up fighting’, was probably my saving grace in overcoming my own battle with drug addiction.
We laughed a lot as well, especially in the last couple of weeks before his passing. We had so many deep and meaningful conversations, that perhaps may never have happened without cancer entering our lives. Dad became quite philosophical, and imparted his wisdom as a leaving legacy. My bond with my Mum (although already strong) became stronger.
I’ve also learnt about what’s really important: when someone comes to the end of their life they’re not thinking about how flash their house is or what kind of car they drive. They’re focusing on their loved ones, their precious memories and the wonderful life lessons they’ve embodied.
It is from these moments of great hardship that our greatest personal growth will emerge. I believe without these hardship’s, we would never become better people. It is only through deep pain, that deep beauty can arise, and in turn, be fully appreciated.
Yes, I’d love my Dad to still be here, but I don’t think our lives would be as enriched if it wasn’t for the many blessings that Dad’s cancer brought to us. I’m even grateful for the destruction my addiction brought – without it I would not be the strong, loving and compassionate person that I’ve proudly become today.
It’s very easy to focus on the negatives of any challenging situation, there is safety in that ‘victim’ mentality, but being safe has never taken anyone to great heights, for it is nothing more than a smokescreen for fear and avoidance of personal accountability.
That’s not to say that focusing on the positives will devoid you of feeling the fear, it just means that the fear doesn’t conquer you. We will always take hits, stumble and fall, but we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off – and try, try again.
In every hard lesson there is a blessing, we just need to be open enough and brave enough to see it.