This is not a typical topic of mine, but it’s something close to my heart. Cancer is important to me. It has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s something that everyone is afraid of. It’s something that we all strive to escape. It’s something unique and it’s something powerful.
The first memory that I have of cancer, is when my neighbor’s mother lost her hair. I’m not sure what amount of time went by, but one day I saw an ambulance leave their house and she didn’t come home. I was young. My neighbor was a college student who also nannied me and my sister during the summer. All I knew is that she had been diagnosed with cancer, and that she had died.
My second memory of cancer, is when my mom and dad sat down on our horrible green colored couch one night. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was after opening Christmas presents from extended family. I could tell that my mom had been crying. We’re both ugly criers and our eyes turn red and puffy. (No offense Mom). They told us that our grandpa had been diagnosed with cancer. Immediately I connected that word to the ambulance that took away my neighbor’s mom. I thought that my grandpa was dying. However, this conversation was held 12 years ago. Now I know that before this conversation, he had successfully overcome bladder and parotid gland cancer. This conversation was about lung cancer. He had metastatic lung cancer, which stemmed from the parotid gland cancer. He had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, terminal cancer.
For the sake of trying not to be negative, let me tell you some positive things. My grandpa was one of my very best friends. He was positive and strong and happy. God, he was so happy. He fought with the Army in Vietnam. He had the most gorgeous and generous and kind-hearted wife that a guy could ask for. He had three amazing kids and six grandkids. He had a love of the water. He loved his boat and his trailer. He loved his friends. Most importantly, he loved life. He loved every single day. Whether he was sick or tired or angry… he loved life. He spent every day happy and dedicated to making other people smile.
That’s what cancer can’t do. Although it may make it tough, cancer can’t keep you from smiling. It can’t erase the amazing memories and fun times with your loved ones. It brings us together and urges us to cherish every moment. It can’t make you any lesser of a person. My grandpa had cancer, and he was my hero through the very last time we held hands. He was my hero in his last words to me. He is still my hero because he defied the odds. He took what cancer said, and didn’t let it control him.
Cancer causes hope. Hope brings everyone together. My family thrived off of hope. We loved more with hope. Hope and positivity allowed us to become closer than ever. We were a team. Our family time meant more and we chose to live each moment to the fullest. Spinning some negative circumstances into a positive outcome is important. Finding the things to focus on and let them lead your life instead of negativity. Cancer can’t take that away.
An illness may make life pretty damn hard, but it can’t change who you are. It’s possible to fight. It’s possible to win. Even with the inevitable, victory is possible. I won 22 years with my grandpa, years and memories that’ll guide me through the rest of my life. We didn’t lose to cancer. Cancer didn’t beat us. It’s hard to stay positive, but remembering that you’re powerful and to love over everything else, anything is possible.