Can anyone ever be grateful for having cancer? My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. He was not yet 50 years old when we were sitting in his doctor's office, waiting to get his biopsy results. Like a scene from a movie, a large clock was hanging on the wall, and it felt like the second hand was ticking with an echo while we waited for the doctor to appear. Without missing a beat, the doctor got right to the results as soon as he walked through the door. They know the immediacy of that information. It's binary. It's either yes or a no, positive or negative. In our case it was positive. Positive?
How ironic that a malignancy is called a positive diagnosis. In no way is getting that diagnosis a positive thing. Or is it? In fact for us it became a very loud call to action. It provided us with unequivocal reason to evaluate our lives, to examine our priorities, and to teach our three daughters just how finite life is. Cancer underscored the people and things in our lives we are truly grateful for.
A year later we got the news that my big brother had pancreatic cancer. My big brother's diagnosis was even more devastating than my husband's. Pancreatic cancer has less than a 6% survival rate. But my brother made the most of the remaining months he had. He used every moment, every ounce of strength, to thank the people who made a difference in his life.
One act of gratitude was to Mr. Ray. My brother asked for my help to track down his high school biology teacher. Mr. Ray is the reason my brother went on to become a doctor. I was able to track down Mr. Ray who had retired to a remote and nearly off-the-grid town in New Mexico. The two reconnected and my brother was able to thank Mr. Ray nearly 40 years after sitting in his high school lab.
Too many of us go through each day without living in the moment. Without being grateful for the people and things we should covet. And while I truly feel cancer sucks - there is, without a doubt, this painful and bittersweet outcome resulting in the most profound gratitude because of it.
March 31st marks my husband's three-years being cancer free. We have been profoundly impacted by our experience and know that we are lucky. We are lucky to have been given this chance to reflect, reevaluate and live without regret. Truthfully we know that without the cancer diagnosis we would not be living in the moment as much as we do now. For that, I am grateful.
Tina Case is a professional photographer and proud to be a Yahoo! Shine Parenting Guru. You can read more about her husband's cancer diagnosis here.