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Cancer is Not a Blessing or Gift

I’m fairly sick of those people, most of them are cancer survivors, who try to turn cancer into some sort of blessing. For most, they are thankful for the clarity that facing death can provide. When life seems short, the ephemera become clearer as does the substance. Time is now of the essence and all those things that once felt important…not all of them feel so important.

And so, they try to give to cancer a meaning that it doesn’t have. They perhaps think of Ram Dass and other Buddhist and Buddhist-like teachings that say the meaning of experience is only what we perceive it to be. There is truth to this.

For example, if I want to succeed as a writer and define successful writing as me being highly productive each day where I not only write well, but in volume, then I will perceive a day or series of days or weeks of feeling that I am writing badly—poorly written pieces that are very slow to materialize—as being unsuccessful. However, that value, lacking success and being frustrated and discouraged by it, is a value that I am placing on the experience. By contrast, if I define successful writing as showing up each day at the page and working through that days experience of writing without giving up or quitting or losing my love of writing, then I will most likely be a happier person and feel like I am successful at writing.

Success goes from achievement or a set of future expectations not aligned with reality (I know for a fact that some days I will write better and more easily than others) to one where it is defined by whether or not I participated in the experience…whether or not I showed up.

To break it down to its most elemental sense, and to borrow from Hemingway (probably not the ideal icon of the concept I am outlining)…All I have to do to succeed is write one true sentence.

However, what if truth is elusive? We continue to show up and look for it.

This brings me back to the idea of cancer as gift and giving cancer attributes it does not have. Cancer takes. It does not give. Cancer kills. It does not preserve or sustain. Those are the facts of cancer and the truth of the experience of cancer. So to try and say that cancer in reality turned out to be some sort of opportunity or blessing is to miss from where the blessing and opportunity emanates.

It emanates from the individual. It comes from the person and their ability to find or see with greater clarity in the midst of this thing that is trying to take so much. It is not the cancer giving to the individual, it is the individual finding a way to give something to him or her self as cancer is taking from them.

And finding these insights does not depend on cancer being present. Cancer is not the spark. The spark is the recognition of the need for a fuller life and to focus on those things that truly give it meaning. This need and ability is always present within all people. It’s why I’m a Quaker and have so much respect for Buddhism and other philosophies that teach a concept of the collective unconscious and the universality of human experience. Quakers et al believe that within all people there is the capacity for great goodness, ability to be present in our lives and the lives of others, and to wake to the need to be a better, more aware person.

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz always had the ability to go home. She just had to realize it. We all always have the ability to be more present and see with greater clarity in our lives. We just have to realize that it’s there.