I once knew a minister who spoke about the elderly ladies in his church who--when talking of a friend who had passed would exclaim, "Wasn't it a blessing?"--would greet another hard event in life with the ironic quip, "Another f...ing blessing!"
So I am going to attempt the impossible and talk about the f...ing blessings of cancer. They do exist, even if you have to poke around under the leaves for them.
1/ You find out how much people love you. I have literally been swept away by the outpouring of love and support from friends, family, and my church community. Offers of food, being driven to appointments, coming to organize my house (oh, yeah!), do errands, and more, keep flowing in. It astonishes me. It humbles me.
2/ You realize what it is like to feel healthy, to inhabit a body which is humming along like a well-oiled machine. When that goes--that sense of well-being, that feeling that you could sprint up the road if necessary--you mourn the loss. And then appreciate what you had. Gratitude. It is one of the by-products of this horrible disease. I hope that I will return to that healthy body once again, ready to race across the lawn after my playful Jack Russell Terrier.
3/ You become even closer to God. For me this is true, but not for everyone, of course. In the early morning dark when my fears creep out like wolverines and I am a quivering mess, I remember to pray, say the Rosary, to recite the Nicene Creed. Quivering ceases. Wolverines crawl back to their dens. I remember I am held and loved, and a sense of peace envelopes me. It might not last, but I know it is there and will come again. "Strengthen the hands that are feeble,/ make firm the knees that are weak," I pray. "Then will the lame leap like a stag,. then the tongue of the mute will sing." (Isaiah 35; 1-10) Ok, Isaiah, I get it. A strength that is not mine will appear. JATS=just in time strength.
4/ You find out what a remarkable man you have married. I always knew he was pretty damn fine; we've been through a lot together, and he always shows up. But when you have cancer--something frightening to both of you--then you see the depth of his love and the core of his strength. I am endlessly grateful.
5/ And then you discover how fine a Kindle can be, loaded with mystery novels by Julia Spencer-Fleming, perhaps a racy Regency Romance or two, a book of prayers from cancer survivors (I'm all over the map here...), and more. I feel taken care of when I know I have books galore in store, that even in the hospital, I can open my small Kindle Paper White and read away, leaving the world of IVs, moans down the hallway, and other hard things.
I am sure there is more. This is part of what I know for now. Just--cherish your life; cherish your wonderful body that is fearfully made; love the people who love you; continue to immerse yourself in community; walk your dogs; give thanks for the setting sun; and listen for the word of God which is always, always there, even when we do not hear it.