Cancer U.

Cancer dictates a fast education.

At the universities I attended, I never studied for cancer. Not in 35 years of work and not at any of my five employers was there ever any on-the-job training for cancer.  Or how to handle it, or what questions to ask, or what decisions need to be made — let alone what the answers are or what the decisions should be. Then one day I officially had cancer and was back in school. With a sense of urgency, but with no preparation, I found myself at Cancer U.

And the professor was saying, “Here are your options. What would you like to do?”

It was my first cancer, and I had to learn, and learn quickly — everything all at once, from the nitty-gritty of the disease and its treatment options to the larger matters of life and living.

My first three life lessons:

1. Everyone handles her cancer differently. There’s no right or wrong way, no good or bad way, to incorporate cancer into your life and, more importantly, into your mind. It’s whatever works best for you and the people around you. But you do have to ask yourself, “Is it really working?”

2. The doctors don’t tell you what to do, only your options. Some people find this bewildering, others find it empowering. Empowerment can be your talisman at a time when you feel like a bystander, watching your body doing things beyond your control.

3. Cancer is a journey you do not choose to make, but you can choose to make the most of it. Along this journey lay knowledge, wisdom, gratitude, courage, joy and even humor. It’s all there, a sampler of the human condition. A post on a New York Times cancer blog once snidely reminded: “Cancer is not an attitude.” True enough, but you will form some attitude toward it.

So maybe the scariest thing is: You’ll learn a lot about yourself at Cancer U.

One Response to “Cancer U.”

  1. Bill,
    We think about you every day. We are enriched by reading your blog and understanding your “attitude” toward cancer. Maybe we won’t have to start at the beginning of Cancer U. if it becomes an intimate part of our lives since you have led the way.
    Thank you for sharing your “journey”.


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