The Cancer Journeys: The Gift of Peace

It’s been a while since I’ve written a cancer blog. Admittedly, they are difficult to write. And now, someone close to me is nearing the end of his life due to cancer. It’s hard.

In watching this person face the end of his life, and to watch those close to this dear man, I’m amazed at how calm and peaceful they are when confronting this awful situation. The faith they are exhibiting is extraordinary, even through the fear and sadness.

When any of us receive a scary diagnosis, our reactions can vary. I’ve observed, and experienced, the different ways we can respond. Responses range from fear, to denial, to anger, to hope and the courage to fight, to acceptance. These are similar stages in the grief process. That’s probably not a coincidence. There is grief with a cancer diagnosis, because you are changed from that day on.

In thinking through this, there’s a quote that resonates with me these days:

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. — Brian Tracy

I want to take a lesson from this person close to me and with how he is living up to that quote. I want to face life with dignity, grace, and no wasted time. That kind of strength only comes from God.

Cancer has taught me many things. Sometimes I want to ignore that I even had cancer. There are times I want to use cancer survival as motivation to spur me on and to remind me that I am stronger than I think I am. But it’s not cancer itself that affects me. It’s my faith and how I deal with cancer that can make a difference.

How we handle life’s difficulties can inspire others or disappoint or scare us and others. I can only hope I inspire like my dear family member is inspiring me…with peace and calmness, and serenity. That in and of itself is a gift.

Going Against the Flow

I have a great group of friends. I’m very, very thankful for that. We can talk, laugh, and cry together.

Recently, an issue came up, and I discovered that I’m at odds with most of my friends. During a dinner discussion one evening with this particular group of friends, they asked me how I felt about this issue (and no, I’m not going to mention the specifics here). Well, instead of hemming and hawing and trying to deflect, because the discussion had already gone around the table, I chose to be honest with them. Although they are close friends, it was still difficult to open up because my opinion was different than nearly everyone else’s. I didn’t think I’d lose friends over this, but I also did not want to cause tension.

Guess what happened? Instead of tension, or even flippant remarks of how wrong I was, I received support and words of encouragement. Relief filled me.

I told my friends that I was glad for the open conversation, as it helped me learn more about the issue and to understand why my friends feel the way they do.

Holding a different point of view these days feels very strange, almost to the point of feeling isolated. You’re going against the norm, and like the cliché says, you’re swimming upstream.

That night of conversation makes me wish the world was more like this. Agreeing to disagree, respectfully, peacefully, and listening to all sides of the issue. When we listen to each other, we learn more. We learn about our friends, and while we all may not agree on everything, it does make a difference when you understand why they feel the way they do.

So, to my friends, I say thank you. Thank you for understanding, thank you for listening and respecting my point of view, as I respect yours.

Next time a friend expresses a view that’s different from your own, please listen to them. Try to understand why they hold that opinion, then have a quiet, respectful discussion. Who knows? You might find you have more common ground than you realize, and you might even learn something about each other, and yourself.

Advice to my Younger and Older Self

17-year-old younger me

You know the question: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Well, I always want to say “Have more confidence in yourself. Don’t be afraid. And don’t say yes to the first guy who asks you to marry him!” (😉)

Recently, I think I’d also want to say “Don’t waste time.” Frankly, I’m saying that to my current self, not just my younger self.

As we get older, it’s easy to look back and see where we wasted time and notice the missed opportunities. I don’t like living a life of regret. Truthfully, there’s very little I regret, because everything in my past has led me to where I am today, and where I am is a pretty good place to be.

However, there are moments when I feel like I’ve let opportunities pass me by. I got lazy and didn’t work hard for what I really wanted. Other times, when I was ready to embrace an opportunity, other life events got in the way.

Then frustration builds. I’ll say to myself “I want to quit this writing gig, because I’m never going to finish my novels or get published.” Or “I really blew it this week with overeating and too little exercise, so what’s the point?”

Do you see how easy it is to let frustration, doubt, and disappointment begin to color your future choices?

Nothing changes if nothing changes. I can’t change decisions and missed opportunities from the past. But I can start again from today, right now. I can get off my butt and exercise. I can keep writing. And I can pray that God will give me another chance. If he’s closing the door permanently, then I pray he shows me the new path he wants me on.

Some days we really have to battle and pray through all of the negative thoughts. Why are they so much stronger than the positive ones. Ten people can love a story I’ve written, but the one negative comment will leap over all the positive ones.

It’s time we quit being so fragile. Yeah, easier said than done. But when we know what we’re supposed to do, then it’s time to do it. If we mess up for a day, then get right back on the path the next day.

It’s simple, yet so very hard. I admire the folks who seem to have such confidence that nothing throws them off their game. However, I bet they even have bad days. They just know how to get right back on the horse.

In days of doubt and discouragement, I’m learning to make a concerted effort to fight off those negative thoughts and keep pushing ahead. It can be a daily battle.

But I believe it’s one worth fighting.

Seek and You Shall Find – The Negative Trap

You know, for a writer and a blogger, I’m not doing a very good job posting on my blog these days. I know that happens from time to time, but I truly enjoy blogging, so I’m a little bummed out about my lack of consistency.

Okay, the world is full of distractions, but as the saying goes “Writers write.” We have to learn to fight through the distractions and keep on doing our job.

For me, I’m trying to figure out why it’s been so difficult recently. And yes, the world is crazy right now, and there’s a feeling of isolation due to Covid. Last year, however, was more than just Covid and the pandemic that none of us saw coming. It was the anger of this nation, with the presidential election dividing America nearly in half. It was the protests and riots, and general unrest that had many of us shaking our heads wondering what was happening to the United States. Then, if you throw in any type of personal crisis, health issue, job loss, and more, well, how much more can we take?

The new year was going to bring new hope, and there are sparks of hope, but overall, things remain the same.

So, for me, trying to have any glimmer of creativity has been tough. I’ve determined that a lot of my block has been negativity. The world is angry. I feel like we’ve lost our kindness and compassion for one another. There’s so much negativity going around that it’s blocking out the positive. Comments on social media posts are vindictive and nasty. You can’t even agree to disagree. If you don’t believe like someone else does, they can call you all kinds of names, and are so filled with hate, it’s almost frightening. What happened to politeness and plain old common courtesy?

Personally, I don’t mind disagreeing with others. I like hearing their viewpoint on issues. By listening to all sides, I learn new things. I can think about things from a different perspective. Even if I still disagree with them, I like knowing their point of view. This goes back to agreeing to disagree. I try to be an open, positive person in my day-to-day life, but right now, the negativity is sucking the energy and creativity right out of me. I’m weighed down with hopelessness. How do you combat that?

There’s only one way: Look for the good. If you’re in such a mindset of anger, then you’ll only see offense everywhere you turn. If you look for kindness, you’ll see positivity more and more. It’s too easy to fall into the negative trap.

My faith helps me a lot. And lately the Bible verse in 1 Thessalonians that says “Pray without ceasing” has been put into action like never before. Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV) says, “Then you call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

That’s what I need to keep in mind: What am I seeking? Am I so consumed with negativity that it’s the only thing I see? Or am I looking for good things? Anger breeds anger, but on the flipside, kindness breeds kindness.

We need to ask ourselves what are we looking for? I know what I’m seeking – how about you?