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Cancer: the Positive Negative

Mar 15, 2008
I was shocked when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.

We'd noticed a small change in her breast, but it didn't feel like a lump; it was just a little bit harder. That had happened years before when her breasts grew a little, so we didn't think another thing about it.

After all, we're young - in our early 30s. Breast cancer is something that happens to older women - not young, healthy, active women.

Of course, my disbelief was irrelevant. Not only that, the cancer was growing very quickly: we learned a few days after the initial diagnosis that it had already spread to her liver.

I cried like I hadn't cried in decades as I drove from work to home the day she called to tell me the cancer was in her liver. Breast cancer was one thing, but liver cancer sounded so terrible, so insurmountable.

I calmed myself down with some deep breathing as I neared the house, dried my eyes, and put on a brave smile with which to face my wife.

Once together, we were both surprisingly strong. Scared, yes, but determined to go down this path with a positive attitude to get to the other side whole and still together.

We'd both heard others say in positive literature and on shows like Oprah that a major life event like cancer changes you: making you stronger, and more appreciative of life. We discussed in those early days whether or not that might happen to us, and wondered what it might be like if it did happen.

After seven months of difficult chemotherapy, the tumors have shrunk significantly, and we've learned that the stories of lives changed by tragedy are true.

Cancer can indeed be a positive negative.

We don't sweat the small stuff anymore. We both used to be prone to small anxieties and mood swings. They disappeared almost immediately in my wife, and more gradually, they have disappeared from my life as well.

We finally understood that "they" call it "small stuff" for a reason.

Now we look for the little things that make us happy. We watch funny, ridiculous movies and TV, or none at all.

We eat better, we love better and -- since I'm still healthy -- I exercise more. That's harder for my wife, because the chemotherapy really takes it out of her. So we do some yoga together when she feels up to it.

We drink more water, see more of our friends, and take our dog for longer walks down our tree-lined streets.

In short, my wife's cancer was a wake-up call. Life is indeed precious and finite, and it truly should be enjoyed to the fullest.

I realize there's nothing earth shattering in these words. You've no doubt read them more eloquently-written by others. But if only one person reads them and says, "I choose to live more fully now," they're words worth writing.

Do go out and live life more fully. Do something now to make joy a part of your day, and keep on doing it. Above all, be grateful for your blessings, large and small.

It doesn't have to take a cancer diagnosis for you to start living a better life!
About the Author
Mac Bartine is the editor of Cancer Survivors' Stories : tales of hope, courage, humor and love
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