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Meredith McNerney

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Why Cancer Doesn't Always Suck

Posted: 04/13/2012 5:05 pm

In many ways, cancer does suck. I know. I received that dreaded phone call on my birthday, of all days, and that day sucked. My diagnosis, Merkel Cell Carcinoma, not only destroyed the left side of my face but forced me to endure seven surgeries and a whole lot of radiation. So, I get it; many of us support the belief that cancer sucks. But sometimes it doesn't. Think about it. When someone faces cancer they experience unity like never before. It's not just the phone calls, flower, cards, or homemade meals; don't get me wrong -- those are all amazing. But cancer has a way of uniting people similar to the unity felt among Americans after 9/11. I've met couples who were on the brink of divorce before cancer reunited them. I recently had the privilege of reconnecting with a childhood friend, who I had not seen in 20 years, because she was facing cancer. Many wonderful charities are formed to honor a loved one who lost their battle with cancer. The benefit of the journey is experiencing the human spirit like never before. Facing cancer was quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to me. Today, I have a different perspective on life and I have cancer to thank for a lot of personal growth.

Before cancer, I actually weighed myself every single day of my life. Many women do that, but it sucks that we do. Now, I eat to feel good and strive to be healthy, but my scale has no place in my life anymore. Maybe that's because cancer taught me not to be so vein. I also used to think that the car I drove mattered a lot. Now, I don't care. It's not because I don't like nice things rather I realize that what you have today can be gone tomorrow; including financial freedom.

Now I'd rather spend my money enjoying life and making memories with people so that I can live each day to the fullest. And cancer created a beautiful love story between my husband and me as he cared for me with gentleness and loved me even with half of my face missing. Now I can't say any of that sucked.

But what about when cancer does suck? What about the days when you don't feel like embracing a new perspective? What about those days? Personally, my darkest days involved fear; fear of not being able to watch my children grow into young women and fear of never holding my future grandchildren; fear that my husband may fall in love again -- without me in the picture. Sometimes it was the pain after each surgery that made me think about giving up; pain so raw that I knew cancer definitely sucked. What about those days? On those days, I let myself feel what I needed to feel in order to heal. I prayed often and waiting a lot. At times, I cried and a few times I got really angry, but each time I made a choice. Sometimes we must believe before we can see. And that's what I did. I believed the pain would pass. I believed the hurt would heal. I believed the fear would subside. And it did, but not all at once. I learned to rely on prayer and people and love and forgiveness. Mostly, I forgave the cancer that came to harass me. I began to see the blessings instead. I definitely squeezed my little girls tighter and giggled with them more often.

Today, I can say that cancer does not always suck. As a result of facing cancer, I have a clearer perspective on my purpose in life, stronger relationships, and a greater sense of what really matters. I was 31 when I faced cancer. I should have never had to endure such hardship. But as all survivors know, it is the obstacles that we face that make us who we will become and I am pretty happy with where I've ended up.