A few months ago I was diagnosed with liver cancer. I underwent two liver resection surgeries to remove the tumors. The surgeries were invasive and the recovery period was lengthy.
I had more down time to sit and think than I have in years, which isn’t usually good for me. So many thoughts had been plaguing my mind and making me insane. I needed to get it all out of my head and into words to make sense of it. During that period of time, events unfolded which taught me a great deal about myself and life.
1. People will walk out on you when you feel you need them the most. They will do things you can’t imagine doing to another human being. It will be incredibly painful. Be thankful they showed you how toxic they are and that you no longer need to be a part of their lives’. It’s impossibly hard to think this way at times, but it’s for the best, this I’m certain. On the opposite end of that spectrum, some people will surprise you when they come out of the woodwork to show you they care.
2. People won’t know what to say to you when you’re going through difficult times. Some people may avoid speaking to you because of this fact. Others will try to find the right words when there isn’t much to say. Be kind to them for trying. Tell them how they could best support you in your time of need. You can’t expect them to be mind readers.
3. I’ve learned to hate the question, “How are you feeling?” I want people to talk to me the way they used to. I don’t want an illness to define me.
4. Learn to be your own advocate for your health. Read, research and reach out to people who have been in your shoes. I haven’t done much of this, but I hear it helps. Ask your doctors questions. Push back if something doesn’t seem right and get a second opinion if you feel the need. Doctors don’t know as much as we would like to believe.
5. Don’t ask yourself the question, “Why me?” It’s a stupid question which serves no purpose. The reality is it IS happening to you and that’s what matters. Wondering “why me” led me to pity parties and feeling helpless. It’s nonsense.
6. I’m a junkie and if given the opportunity I will eventually abuse painkillers; even when I need them for pain. I can’t trust myself with pills. Doctors may push them on you. Some will even tell you pain meds are necessary and not taking them will impede your healing.
7. I’ve felt weak and helpless and wanted others to feel the same way. I’ve taken my anger out on people who don’t deserve it. Then I feel shame and guilt for acting like an asshole. Be nice, it’s easier.
8. Be a good friend to others. Talk to them about what’s going on in their lives. Make them feel comfortable talking about their issues without feeling bad because I’m sick. It’s free therapy to listen to someone else. Offer advice only if they ask for it. It’s the best way I know to get out of my own head and stop worrying about my issues.
9. I hate asking for help. It’s at the top of my list of the most difficult things to do. It proves how much I struggle to be humble and I lack humility.
10. You have to exercise in every way. My body, mind and skills atrophy very quickly when I don’t use them.
11. I place an enormous amount of emphasis on outward appearance. I have no confidence in myself when I don’t look a certain way. I feel no one could ever be interested in me with the way I look now. Recently, I went out with friends to a bar I used to frequent and I was embarrassed to have people to see me. I couldn’t look them in the eye.
12. I’m scared of death. But I’m more scared of living a life where I can’t look the way I want or live in the manner I’ve become accustomed to. I worry more about money, success and my appearance than I do my health. I’ve even said to myself I’d rather die than continue a life where I’ve lost the things I place so much value on.
13. We’ll always want what we can’t have. I want and crave what’s not meant for me to have, especially the wrong people.
14. I deal with my problems through humor. Occasionally I make jokes about having cancer. Some of my friends think it’s in poor taste and get mad at me for it. I know cancer isn’t a funny subject, but laughter is healing and good for your soul. It’s empowering in a way to laugh at something so serious. Then I wonder if I haven’t had cancer long enough to be able to make jokes. Is there a time limit?
15. I don’t know as much as I think I do. Every time I think I have something figured out I’ll usually prove myself wrong in the future.
16. I hate this saying but it’s true, “Time takes time.” Sometimes you can’t do much except wait to heal before you are able to move on.
17. People will crush you and walk on your heart if you let them. It will suck and hurt so bad that you may want to die. People say it’s meant to direct you to something better for your life. I don’t know if that statement is true. What I do know is people leave scars on your heart and your life. Wounds heal but scars remain.
18. Shitty, horrible things will happen to you that you can’t explain. Maybe karma exists and I’m being punished for being a bad person. Maybe it’s simply a case of shit happens. Possibly it’s a combination of both.
19. Sometimes life is going to seem like it’s never going to get better. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes really shitty people will be blessed with great lives (at least it appears so from the outside) and so much of what you may covet. Life’s funny that way. Try not to worry about them. Focus on how you can make your life better.
20. Continuing to live and try is a choice. Sometimes a difficult one. Unless you have a death sentence, the rest of your time on earth is up to you to decide how to view it and live it. I’m not saying things will get better and you will live happily ever after. But you’re the only one who has even the slightest chance of making your life fulfilling.
21. Even when facing death, I still fear doing what I want with my life and taking risks. I also fear unimportant things like how people will view me or judge me. In the end most people won’t remember your successes or failures. Many won’t even remember you. Do whatever makes YOU happy. Do things for yourself.