Today I told a coworker I don’t cry when I’m sad, only when I’m angry. And as I write this, I’m crying so many angry tears at you. I hate you with all of my being. You ruined the life I had, all my dreams, aspirations, friends, and so much more. You took my life, turned it upside down, and gave it a good shake ensuring nothing would ever remain the same. And I hate you for it.
Today, I learned of another young soul you stole from this world. She was just a few weeks shy of her 21st birthday. I didn’t know her, but I do know the pain her friends feel. I’ve felt that same pain so many more times than I ever should have in my 25 years on this earth. Her obituary shows a beautiful woman, with lovely dark hair, and bright, sparkling eyes. I hate that you took her. I hate that you took Sam, and Vanessa, and Alli, and Ravi and Sami and Tyler and Dolly and Larry. I hate how you make me feel, every time I read a story about another person’s life forever altered as your cruel fingers touched their lives. I hate you for changing my life, and the lives of Brooke and Steve and Jeremy and Cristina and Alli and Liz and Corrie and Donna and all of our families.
But the teeniest, tiniest, most buried part of me, is grateful to you. Against every rational fiber of my being, I want to say thank you. And I cry again. This time tears of- what? They embody love, and gratitude, and happiness, and they overwhelm my soul.
So dear cancer, thank you.
Thank you for Ceci- my beautiful nurse who has lost both parents to you and stands by her husband’s side as he continues to fight. She was my rock, my pillar of strength and comfort and reason. I don’t believe I would have ever beat you twice without dear Ceci holding my hand.
Thank you for Annette- the darn best phlebotomist oncology has ever seen. There is no one else in the world I would so readily trust my worn and weary veins to.
Thank you for Rhonda- who always has a giant headband and glitter spray in her hair. Her infectious smile dissipates the gloom you bring. I am forever grateful for how upset she gets whenever she had to give me multiple vaccinations.
Thank you for Mary- who always checks if the patient has peed the necessary amount with the chemo and announces it to the hall.
Thank you for Marcella, who even pregnant with twins would never cut any corners in taking care of her patients.
Thank you for Alli and Kathy, who walked down the hall in a ridiculous outfit to make the halls ring with laughter.
Thanks for Mary Jane, who scheduled all the appointments, and put the fear of God into any other department schedulers who tried to drag their feet. She was a mama bear that protected her oncology young and fought for the best schedule for them.
Thank you for John, who has the most empathetic heart. We’ve heard his voice break, as he feels so deeply for the children under his charge.
Thank you for Connie, who is the embodiment of a mother hen. How she sat on the chemo bed next to me, speaking encouragement into my college dreams. I can still hear her laughter pealing through my room as she always spreads cheer wherever she goes.
Thank you for Sanjay, who always has an attitude of believing I can accomplish anything, and not at all being surprised when I surprise myself.
Thank you for Duncan, who was alert to the needs of a beaten and broken teenage girl, and gave her the goal list she needed to recover from transplant and leave the hospital.
Thank you for Ken, who read a Bible verse each morning and spoke hope into the broken soul of his patient.
Thank you for Amelia, who has so readily dropped all other items to listen to a hurting AYA…you can see the weariness from the long day in the way she carries her giant bag, but that has never stopped her from sitting and listening intently, focusing every bit of attention on listening to an anxious YA patient pouring out their heart.
Thank you for Whitney, who works tirelessly to support AYA in all the ways she can…on a long day, there’s no one better than her to just sit with and talk about random things like any other young adult.
Thank you for Jen, who sees your FB post and texts you that she is there for anything you need. And follows up those texts again to make sure you are ok.
Thank you for Lisa, who will sit with you like she has nowhere else to be (spoiler, she has 1000x places to be), to listen to your heart unburden. And will drag all therapy pets into your room to comfort you.
Thank you for Chuck and Char, who invested time and money in this gorgeous space that brings us emotional happiness through our physical pains. I can’t imagine the depth of their own pain, but they have chosen to spread their kindness through hundreds of AYA patients instead.
Thank you for Lisa, who walked into my room having read my file cover to cover. And called me one random afternoon, because she was reviewing my file and had thought of additional ways to help my life. She always speaks with kindness, empathy, and grace.
Thank you for so many, many more people that I don’t have the energy to list right now.
Dear Cancer, I know so many people have some very choice words for you. But tonight, sitting in my hotel hundreds of miles from everyone I know and love, I say thank you. Thank you for introducing me to this incredible team of people. Thank you for helping me get my life priorities aligned. Thank you for showing me how strong the bonds of sibling love can be. Thank you for helping deepen my faith. Thank you for the strangers you’ve allowed into my life.
Don’t get a big head, but without you my life would be so different. I wouldn’t have the muscle aches and joint pains and eternal fatigue and chemo brain and stomach issues and so many other long-term side affects you so happily bestow. I also wouldn’t have friends like Liz, Brooke, Cristina, Whitney, or Steve. I wouldn’t be writing this. Please, leave this world for good, very soon, and without taking any more of the people I love.
But for this one moment dear cancer, thank you.