We wage war on a daily basis on many different perceived enemies. War language is so pervasive in our culture, we don’t even notice it anymore. Type “War on” into Google and see what pops up. We have a “War on Drugs,” a “War on Terror,” a “War on Poverty.” Heck, we even have a “War on Christmas.” We can’t stop ourselves. Our culture sees everything as a fight that needs to be won. As a battle that needs to be waged. We must have a winner and a loser. We cannot let down our defenses. We will never surrender.
But at what cost?
Every war has casualties. Every war has pain and heartache. Every war creates residual misery and trauma.
I was diagnosed with cancer in May of 2013. For me, the most difficult part of this entire journey was that first few weeks. You walk around in a bit of a daze, just on the edge of holding it together, ready to burst into tears at any moment. You are bombarded with paperwork and information and appointments and scans. You weigh treatment options and interview doctors and figure out how to tell friends and family. How are you going to work? Are you going to work? How will you keep friends and family informed? Will you keep friends and family informed? How are you going to pay for this? Are all of your doctors in network? Are you making the right decisions? Are you making the best decisions? Have you researched enough? Made enough calls?
So many decisions to be made in a very short amount of time. Enough stress in a few short weeks to last an entire lifetime.
But once I had decided on a course of action, once I was settled on a treatment protocol, once wheels were set in motion to get the show on the road, the whole process got easier. Sure, I was receiving chemotherapy between a series of surgeries, but I had a plan and I was moving forward. My life had simply been re-directed. I was living a new normal.
I soon found myself not only accepting my new life, but enjoying it. My cancer diagnosis made me grateful. For the first time in my life, I could appreciate completely with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts.” I was finally able to accept others and genuinely love and accept myself.
So it didn’t take long before I began to consciously reject the traditional language of cancer. I found myself bristling when my journey was described as a “fight” or a “battle.” Those words felt wrong. I wasn’t battling anything. In fact, I had stopped battling for the first time in my life.
I have lived through decades fighting my weight, hating myself, demanding more of myself, battling injustice, and hanging onto resentments.
Cancer snapped the world into focus, prioritized life and melted so much negative thinking away. I now walked around in a giant euphoric love bubble, reflecting and radiating the love from family and friends that had encircled me.
I finally achieved an inner peace. How could I possibly speak about this gift in negative terms?
Language is powerful. We must choose our words with intention. If I were to call my relationship with cancer a “battle,” or a “fight,” my body and brain would simply follow suit. I would seize up and harden and I would be less likely to recognize all of the good that has flooded into my life since my diagnosis. I would focus on what cancer has taken from me, not all that cancer has given me.
When we get into a car accident, our instincts tell us to “brace for impact.” But the medical community will tell you that the people who are relaxed (or sleeping or passed out) during an accident are less likely sustain injury. When your body is less rigid and less tense you are less likely to break bones. Your body simply moves with the impact because you are not fighting against it.
Cancer is no different.
When we talk about cancer or any other life-threatening or life-altering disease in terms of aggression, the weapons we are wielding are pointed directly at ourselves. We deprive ourselves of the opportunity to grow and heal because we are so mired in anger and resentment.
We become casualties of our own friendly fire. No winners at all. Only beautiful souls who have lost the opportunity to live life to its fullest.
I choose to love my cancer for all of the gifts it has brought into my life. I call my cancer a “journey.” I tell people I am “living with cancer.” I have a “life with cancer.” Sometimes I even “dance with cancer.” Life is better because of cancer, not despite it. So I embrace cancer and give it a loving squeeze. It just feels right.