To the person who found this site by searching “How to explain that cancer haunts you”, I’d like to offer this love letter:
I call you searcher because you are, in fact, searching. You are obviously and with your entire heart searching for answers, for clarity, for resources like this website, and for a way forward. I believe searching is one of life’s greatest gifts and greatest teachers. To often we believe the outcome we hope for to be the most important part of living, but life is thankfully much more complex and much more rewarding than that.
I believe it is in the journey itself that true meaning is found; it is in the question that we find the answer. It’s in the act of living out our stories, in exploring many possibilities, many dead ends, and many different choices. In truth: it is the walk upon the path that matters, not what lies at the end of the path. Because what is there to do at the end except look back and wish we’d paid more attention along the way. I hope that you take solace in knowing that even the hardest and most painful of journeys have something beautiful to teach us.
That said, please know I understand your current struggle: the search for a way to cope with the past. Forgiving and moving forward from the awful things that can happen to us, such as cancer, can be a trying experience. If we are not careful, they will make us callous. But you already have an advantage, because you clearly know that a better way to live or your wouldn’t be looking for it. You are right, there is a way to explain that cancer haunts you. What I’m here to tell you is that there is something even better than an explanation:
There is a way to live with cancer, as haunting and daunting and scary
as it is, and still love.
To still be free.
What no one tells you during treatment is that after the chemo, surgery, and/or radiation, cancer will not go away. You can kill it if you’re lucky, but it will remain in your heart and in your body. For me, the tumor is dead, but remains inside my chest right next to my heart, lying dead like the corpse of my enemy. I have to carry it around with me, closer than the eyes I use to see this world, every single day. For a long time, cancer continued it’s fight against my life long after treatment. Please understand I had an incredibly positive experience during treatment, which made the aftermath all the harder to deal with. I was cared for, I was full of hope, I was not bitter nor angry. I used the experience as a chance to understand what makes love and faith and hope so important, and I blossomed out of it as a human more awake and enlightened. But afterward came a much harder battle, which was dealing with the fact that it might come back, and that I would never have the certainty of safety I thought I had before cancer. The naive part of me that thought I was immune to the ugliness of life and all the bad things that could happen, that part of me was gone. Cancer, even after it was gone, held a fear over me that formed a cage. Eventually, I would have to break out.
Then a funny thing happened.
I tried to do exactly what you’re doing; I tried to explain cancer, and everything that could happen, might happen, did happen. I tried to explain this to people I was dating and friends that I had. I was shocked to find that many people simply could not cope with the fear it inflicted in them. I even had people tell me it was difficult to date me (too difficult) because of the risk it involved. They said they weren’t strong enough. I had assumed that when I told them about my cancer and how scared I was that it might come back, they’d help me be strong. I was wrong. And when I saw them be so weak, I had no tolerance for it. It was only then I realized I could have no tolerance for my own weakness either.
It’s not that we, as humble individuals, must be stronger than our fear. We don’t need to be braver or bigger than fear. We don’t need to overpower the haunting ghosts of our past because love can do that for us. Love is already stronger and bigger and more powerful than fear, and all we have to do is choose love and it will do the work for us. I alone do not have to be strong enough to fight my fear, because my love is stronger. My love for life, my love for the people around me, my love for the difference I make through my work. My love for this life that I worked so hard for (even when that life isn’t going so well) is stronger than my fear because it’s real. Fear, as we all know, is not real. It feels real, but once we take a closer look we realize it’s all smoke and mirrors. The ghost of your cancer is only using fear to haunt you.
So look that ghost in the eye. Acknowledge it. Stare it down and tell it: “yes, I know you’re here. I know I could choose to focus on you for the rest of this life. But I won’t focus on you. You can be here all you want, you can do everything you can to distract me from love, but love will win. Love will pull me back to the moment and shine a light on you that will expose you as totally transparent.”
Choose love over fear, because love is stronger and bigger and
so much better than living in fear.
Some ghosts will only become stronger the more we deny them, so don’t worry about denying or hiding. Those ghosts can be there, but they only exist when we put our attention on them. Thankfully, we have the power to turn our attention to love. To this moment. And in this moment, cancer and the past and whatever might happen in the future don’t matter. All that matters is that you are present, and that you love.
There are so many more things I wish I could tell you, and someday I very much hope to. Please, if you read this, reach out to me. You are never alone, and I humbly and wholly hope for the opportunity to prove just how powerful you are over that ghost. In doing so, I hope that you will one day help another person see their power as well. What we can create in light and love will be so much stronger than cancer, than ghosts.
And when you have found the answer to this search of yours, let your next search and your next journey be one toward more passion, more joy, and more celebration. After all, that’s what you fought so hard for, isn’t it?
Forever your fellow searcher and friend,