My opportunity to connect and share “Lessons From Cancer” with people affected by cancer and other life challenges, is a privilege of the highest kind.  Writing my column for the past fifty-two weeks has taught me more than I could have imagined. 

My opportunity to connect and share “Lessons From Cancer” with people affected by cancer and other life challenges, is a privilege of the highest kind. Writing my column for the past fifty-two weeks has taught me more than I could have imagined. 


By sharing my own cancer experiences and inner most thoughts, without holding back, I’ve been given the greatest gift of meeting other people who, like me, are trying to find courage and hope and lose fear in the midst of facing every day difficulties and even the unthinkable. It has brought us together and we have reached out to each other with open hearts and love.


Pretentions seem to fall away here, because in this place of rawness and vulnerability, honesty is what matters most.  There are no games to be played when life and death are the opposing forces.  There are only our individual and collective truths.  Being real with ourselves and each other, appear to give us perspectives and guidance for our best outcomes.


Funny I should be writing about being in a place of truth and here I am, five days after chemotherapy, feeling absolutely awful and trying to deny it. I’ve been anything but truthful with myself.  I’ve barely gotten out of bed; I’ve not been eating or drinking much in the last four days and now I’m dizzy when I stand and I feel so week.  I’m short of breath when I walk and have gas pains that are doubling me over.  And yet, in spite of it, I keep telling myself to drink some water and I’ll be OK.  My daughter and a friend have been urging me this morning to call the doctor and I said, “No, I’m fine”.  Well, I might be stubborn but I am certainly not fine.  Amazingly, it just hit me that here I am writing about honesty and I am far from being honest with myself.


It was right in front of me to see but it took awhile to really open my eyes.  After I realized this, I relented and finally went to the Emergency Room. And it’s a good thing I did.  My blood pressure was 85/50 and I was pretty dehydrated. I was admitted, pumped full of fluids and had various tests.  In writing more now, the day after, I can tell you that my blood pressure is back up and I once again feel somewhat normal. I have time to reflect and write from my hospital bed and now realize that I not only have to be aware of how I’m feeling, especially when things aren’t going well, but I also have to accept it and take action.


And since I’m not perfect and often need reminders to take those right actions, I am going to use this experience as a major Lesson From Cancer. The fact that I recognized the absurdity of writing about facing truth in the midst of an obvious denial of it is a perfect example of how vigilant I really need to be to stay aware of what is really happening and then take the sometimes difficult steps needed to deal with it head on.


I thought that the denial phase of having cancer happens all at once, some time soon after diagnosis.  And I thought I was way beyond it.  After all, it’s been sixteen months since I was diagnosed with both lung and pancreatic cancer and I’ve been thinking that I’m doing well by staying in the moment and dealing with things as they come up.  I guess I have for the most part, but I can see now that those moments can contain either denial or acceptance and the path of acceptance depends first on awareness and then on action. Hopefully I’ll learn this lesson well and do it better next time.