By Agnes Richardson
Because it cannot be bought, borrowed, returned or replaced, time is an invaluable commodity in our lives. Although time cannot be owned, it is quite often stolen, and one of the greatest thieves of time is the diagnosis of cancer. This is the lesson I have learned over the last six years during my battle with melanoma.
Beyond the obvious way in which cancer steals time, surviving cancer drains the time out of a person’s life, as well: making doctors’ appointments, being in doctors’ offices, undergoing surgeries, recovering from surgeries, laying in PET scan machines, drinking concoctions for CT scans, driving to and from the hospital, developing plans for the inevitable side effects of cancer, finding babysitters for my children, researching foods to eat and foods to avoid, reading blogs about the importance of laughter during treatment, juicing for health, endlessly thanking co-workers, friends and family, constantly checking for tumors to determine whether they’re smaller, bigger or still gone and quieting my sobs late at night for fear of waking up my family.
And those are just the tip of the iceberg: cancer plunders time from us. It’s easy to feel a little swindled as a cancer survivor.
While the diagnosis of cancer is the ultimate heist of time, ironically, it also helps us cherish the time that we do have—even if that time is spent in yet another doctor’s office or fighting another bout of nasty side effects in the bathroom. Much like time, gratitude is one of life’s greatest gifts. Gratitude is much easier to experience than happiness, which can be hard to conjure up every day and too difficult to find on command.
Because of cancer, I can appreciate the countless painful needle sticks; I relish the opportunity to personally teach my children the value of kindness; I am thankful that our nightly bedtime routine takes forty-five minutes; and I recognize the value of celebrating seven years of marriage through sickness and in health.
So the truth is that being diagnosed with cancer isn’t just one of the most horrifying thieves of time – it also helps me realize the increasing depth of my gratitude for all moments of life—good, dreadful, beautiful or ordinary. And for that, I am unquestionably grateful.
My message to you is that because time is precious, do not wait to get checked. Cancer doesn’t care what you have going on in your life or how busy you are. It can choose you or a loved one at any moment, so cherish each minute and listen to your body when something feels wrong.