Sometimes you have to be sad before you can be happy. That’s what I told my daughter, the other day, when she asked me why I was crying. Many of us have grief in our life. Grief for a beloved parent, grief over a lost relationship. Having cancer is also a grieving process, not only for the past but for the future.
After cancer, we grieve for the life we have lost, and for the feeling of immortality that we all lose. Before cancer, it was as though death was somehow unreal, or at least too far off to even require thought. It wasn’t part of the normal day. But cancer opens the door and invites it in. It permeates into every aspect of our day. Whatever I buy, be it a house, furniture or even clothes, I have to consider how that affects my children when I’m no longer here. Can it be an asset that can be passed down to them, is it a wise purchase? It also affects my behavior. Is the way I’m acting, teaching my daughters something they can use when I’m gone? Or am I being a bad example? How can I cram a lifetime of advice into a few short years? Can I say it enough and hope they remember? Or should I write it down for when I’m gone. Because time moves fast, and cancer can take you away.
Even those who conquer their cancer, and go on to lead healthy lives, should always remember that feeling of mortality. It’s one of the most valuable lessons you can learn in life. Because living a life blind to the consequences of what you do today will never make a better tomorrow.
It’s about being able to have peace about the future, leaving others so that they may be stronger in their grief. That’s a huge responsibility and a mountainous task. Because I see it in my daughter’s face already. She is already struggling with growing up knowing that her Mommy is ill, and may be taken away. Cancer is generous in that way. It seeps like a gas from my body, curling through the air like a viper, into the minds of my family and my friends. How will this childhood experience shape her life? I wish I knew. There are many great and successful people who have lost a parent at a young age. Maybe that says something about the gift it can bring rather than the heartache it gives out? Maybe experiencing grief at a young age gives a sense of that mortality that cancer brings, and a determination to make the most of life? To be the best person you can be.
So, as cancer survivors, we grieve for the life we had, but also the life we may not see: the weddings, the grandchildren, growing old with those we love. I lost the life I knew and the life I expected tomorrow. Sometimes my grief is all consuming. So, the clouds will overcast my thoughts and the rain will fall as tears. But I know that I am trying to live the best life that I can for my daughters, for the people I love, and those I can help along the way. And that’s when the sun will shine.