Confessions of a Cancer Survivor

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I used to be a firm believer that “everything happens for a reason.” While there are events in life that are too good to be a coincidence, sometimes things occur that simply have no explanation. 

At the preliminary stages of my cancer journey, people told me that the experience would be a life changer–mold me into a stronger person or serve as a testimonial. In fact, I was even told that I would be grateful for this experience one day because something good was going to come out of this. In other words, I felt the burden on my shoulders to maintain a positive outlook regardless of the emotional and physical toll that cancer has taken on me. While there may be some value of truth to these proclamations and assurances, it hardly helped me cope with the pressure I felt in those moments. 

I felt pressure to find reason and purpose for my pain–to piece together a puzzle of everything that broke inside me with hopes of understanding what I had done and what I needed to do. But I failed. And so these assurances that arrived with kind intentions left me with the deepest feelings of guilt and inadequacy. But no matter how deep my guilt ran, it too was as vulnerable as my body. Slowly, I began to see things differently.

I was chatting with a friend of mine about this the other day and he said something that resonated with me: “People always want to act like suffering is supposed to have meaning, because why else would we suffer? Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Such is the strangeness of life. And all we can do is deal with our own struggles however best we can.”

Cancer does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, so going through a traumatic experience like this should not be made to feel like a life lesson. It can seem as though it was meant to happen, and that we are being confronted with a harsh punishment for our past actions.

This is my cross, my burden, my anguish, my trauma. Please do not give meaning to it. For what meaning is the sun choosing to rise a minute later today than it did yesterday?

By : Carmen Dörwald