Why I’ve Decided to Thank Cancer

Reading Time: 6 minutes

“Out of Darkness comes the light, out of troubles comes understanding”
— Monali Monkad

I’d like to thank Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for slowing me down, for teaching me what truly is important in life, for giving me courage to do things I never thought I would or knew how, for opening my eyes to all there is to be grateful for and for giving me a new lease on life.

If someone told me last year that I’d be at this point in my life where I’m able to find positives in my journey with cancer I would’ve laughed at them. To look down on where I was, where I am now and what I’m aspiring to do and become has been eye opening. None of these visions or dreams, none of this courage and strength I feel and none of the blessings I see would’ve been possible had I not battled cancer and won. We all know the unfortunates of a life with and after cancer, but let’s try to put a positive light on what we walk away with at the end and what we learn during and after treatment.

During my treatments I couldn’t see the end nor did I want to see an end. My fears about what my life would be like after my treatments overwhelmed me. I didn’t want to go back to that person, I wanted to move forward somehow and someway, doing and being something different. What that “different” would be or mean I had no idea. I knew that forever I’ve wanted to make an impact, hence my chosen career path. So what was I going to do after my treatments to achieve this goal? Where was I going in my career, as a mom and in life? Well thank you cancer for allowing me the time to contemplate all these questions. Thank you cancer for opening my eyes to what I now see so clearly.

What I see so clearly now is all the things I can do, all the things I will and can achieve and who I want to become. Starting a blog has been the most amazing experience and has truly taken me out of my comfort zone; but, in the midst of that, in the few short things I’ve shared, I’ve been able to find so much peace and happiness in my journey both past and future. I’ve found a way to volunteer some of my time and begin making an impact; however, big or small it is. I’ve learned where I want my career to go and feel secure and good about that decision. I’m beginning to find a purpose and am moving forward with a sense of pride for what I want to do and where I want to be in this next season of life.

Being home, watching my children struggle through and also conquer so many aspects of our new normal, I’ve learned so much about them and the mom I am. It’s truly been a blessing to be here with them in these moments, to rub their backs when they’re struggling with remote learning and to videotape all their soccer workouts. So many of these moments have not been ideal but they’ve been real and I’ve been there for them. Without cancer I wouldn’t have the time I have right now. I wouldn’t know the importance of being here for them and I wouldn’t have taken that chance to make it happen. I was always afraid of trying something new and stayed on the safe path. I took the risk, I quit my job and now I’m here in these moments fully aware and attentive to what they need from me. Understanding this isn’t a possibility for all and that I am truly blessed for this time, I do say thank you cancer for giving me this time. I also thank my support system, my husband, for being patient and understanding of how important this time has been to me and our family.

Being comfortable is what I always knew and strived for. I wanted to be comfortable in all aspects of my life. I didn’t take risks, I didn’t stray from my comfort zone. Lately, I’ve taken on challenges that are very far from my comfort zone. I’m striving to put myself into positions that will make me a bit uncomfortable, but will also enable me to grow into who I want to be. I know I’m strong and courageous now and I know I can do it. I’ve learned that if I place trust in myself and engage in a little bit of discomfort, I may accomplish something I never thought I could. However big or small it is, it will still be a great achievement for me because I trusted myself to do something different. Without the fight I put into my battle I wouldn’t have known that putting a little trust in myself would lead me to an amazing end.

I’ve learned the importance of focusing on myself. My own happiness is what I strive for. Too many times did I worry about how others felt, if others were happy and what I could do or change to make others happy. With a new lease on life, I’ve decided to honor what makes me happy, to put that smile on my face and to truly put myself first. Writing this down I feel a sense of selfishness, but I also see that making myself happy enables me to truly be unselfish. So many things that put that smile on my face are outside of myself. When I focused on someone else’s happiness I was always disappointed, fighting off other feelings of regret, jealousy or worry. Doing things that put a smile on my own face promote all those good feelings inside me. My happiness is in my own hands, not in the hands of others.

I’ve learned a lot about those around me and am choosing to surround myself with those that bring positivity into my life. I want to enjoy the company of those that promote feelings of good, see the good inside me and honor the relationship we have. I am not perfect and there may be times when I may not be easy to be around, but surrounding myself with people that see that, understand that and know me is something of importance in this season of my life. I now understand the importance of having those positive influences and relationships in my life and enjoy their company and friendship.

Recently, my sister in law texted me a picture of her, myself and my mom, two summers ago in Manhattan on a traditional girls trip to Broadway (oh how I miss those trips). She said how different we all looked, which I replied that I thought I looked pretty good. What I didn’t see is what she opened my eyes to: she said I look more radiant and happier now. Wow! When I think about it I see how right she is. I didn’t know then how precious everything was, how significant that moment in time was and how blessed I truly was. I spent way too much time focusing on this or that, rather than enjoying the here and now and making the moments count. These shifts in focus have enabled me to be truly radiant by smiling more and laughing more, understanding how truly precious this life we have is. I now appreciate all the good life offers, cherish my blessings, find things to be grateful for and relish in the moments I am given. All this truly makes me feel so radiant inside.

Simply, life sucks a lot of the time but life is also so good a lot of the time. Cancer sucks all the time, but beating cancer, surviving cancer and realizing your strength is so amazingly good. I had no idea that I was capable of overcoming the battle I fought. I looked at myself as weak and insecure. Why did it take battling my chemotherapy treatments to show me otherwise? I wish I could go back and find that inner strength, but I can only go forward now with a new sense of strength and power in myself and who I am. I’ve learned so much about who I am and what I can accomplish and for that I will always say “Thank you Cancer”.

If you choose to learn from the troubles you are given you may receive a wealth of knowledge about yourself that you never knew. We are all faced with troubles, each and every day in very many different ways. Let’s choose to learn something from those troubles, move forward with a new sense of self and take a positive spin on a negative situation. You may realize in the end, what you learned and what you took away become more important and larger than the troubles you were given. The impact a cancer diagnosis and battle has on a person is grand, it is devastating and it changes the rest of your life; but, when you find that inner strength and move forward you’ve already taken that step to learn a little more about yourself and the power you possess.

By Matilda Portanova