Cancer’s Silver Lining

by Bill Brenner on January 28, 2013

These days it’s sobering for me to think of all the cancer patients I know personally. I’ve written about my aunt and one of my hometown friends. I’ve known others, as well. I’ve never had cancer, but it’s become a source of anxiety in my life.

 Mood music:


Along with knowing many who battle it, I’m at a higher risk of developing colon cancer one of these days, thanks to nearly a lifetime of Crohn’s Disease. I have to get a colonoscopy every couple of years to keep an eye on things, which gives me confidence that if it ever arrives, we’ll catch it early. But it’s given me a somewhat fatalistic outlook: I assume it’s coming eventually.

NPR recommends asking these two questions of your doctor before having your colonoscopy.

That said, I’ve seen a silver lining around this disease. Simply put, it tends to bring out the best in those who suffer from it.

I never hear the people I know with cancer grousing about it. There’s no “woe is me” going on. No bitterness. Just gratitude. They seem to appreciate what they have a lot more and spread that gratefulness around. I have no doubt they still experience plenty of anxiety and awful feelings out of public view. But that’s what makes their public face so inspiring. They can still show us how to be strong, even though they are exhausted and in a hundred kinds of pain.

I’m thinking about this because my Haverhill friend announced on Facebook that she’s decided to get hospice care. Renee Pelletier Costa often posts her messages from bed, because all the chemo and radiation saps her energy. But everything she posts is about how lucky she is and how much support and love she has.

Her battle is getting tougher, and she has decided on hospice care not because she sees the end in sight, but because the services offered will allow her to cast aside the chemo treatments and focus on healthier daily living. She wants to be able to do more for her family and get more quality from the time she spends with them, and this is how she can do that.

“I have no plans of dying anytime soon,” she wrote on Facebook. “Only God knows.”

Indeed, it’s not about dying. It’s about living. It’s more useful to focus on the latter, because when you get down to it, none of us really knows how much time we have.

Thanks for the lesson, Renee.

Related links:

A Tale Of Two C-Words

Beyond Boing Boing: Xeni Jardin Inspires Me

I Don’t Care About Your Bra Color, Where You Put Your Purse Or Where You’re Going for 15 Months

Livestrong Tatoo

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee Costa February 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Thank you Bill. I am deeply touched that you would share my story, and I’m happy to know that it either inspires others, or gets them to think.
I believe the unknown is always more frightening and intimidating than the known. I had a borderline diagnosis way before this cancer became metastatic, and I expected that if that ever happened I would be devatated. When it did happenz, it wasn’nearly as scary as I expected. I felt sad and disappointed but nearly as bad as I thought. My first recurrence was even morr devastating because I knew it would mean more major surgery, and God knows how long Id need chrmo (turns out it would be indefinite. Huge disappointment. I now would have to live with it.
my father said he had feared the “c” word his whole life, and when he was diagnosed with colon cancer, he said it wasn’t nearly as bad as he had imagined.

Renee Costa February 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm

well that last comment needed editing, but accidentally submitted before I was done. dont know how to fix it. oh well.

Penny March 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I remember reading this when you first wrote it. How remarkable she is. Not was, is. ever present in your heart, I am sure. She writes: ” I expected that if that ever happened I would be devatated. When it did happenz, it wasn’nearly as scary as I expected. I felt sad and disappointed but nearly as bad as I thought. ” I had the same feeling, disappointed. I was lucky, though, mine has not returned. At least not yet. I believe it will come back. It’s not a death wish, it’s my truth. One of the things it taught me was that I can do it again if I have to. Toasting you and Renee with my decaf iced coffee.

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