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The Gift of Cancer


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The Gift of Cancer

You may encounter the phrase, “The gift of cancer.” When I first heard this, I thought to myself, “Too bad I can’t take it back.” It may take some time - but the gift is really there waiting, if you open your spirit to receive it.

After you’ve been frozen in your tracks with the diagnosis, perhaps sometime during the treatment period - or maybe even months after your recovery, you will discover “the gift.” Every crisis contains the seed of opportunity. Open your spirit as you would open the earth to plant a flower’s seed. Give yourself permission. If you will allow yourself, you can find beauty in any beast, even cancer.

Each person’s “gift” differs. For me, a community of caring, compassion and love emerged. The gifts I have discovered during this journey result from my interactions with the traditional medical community, practitioners of complementary therapies, and spiritual healers, including ordained ministers. Fellow cancer patients, sensitive counselors and dear, dear friends complete my healing circle. The resounding grace of these individuals impacts the very essence of the human spirit. I was totally unprepared for the unconditional love that continues to envelop me during every encounter. On the devastating day of diagnosis, I hesitantly visited a cancer support center on the advice of my radiologist. I expected a somber, serious setting. What a serendipitous surprise to discover vivid colors and even brighter personalities. Soon even my numbness turned to laughter.

Your journey to these remarkable resources requires no suitcase or ticket. The only prerequisite is an openness of spirit - an attitude that seeks to find blessings in adversity. Prepare to be filled with faith and interior joy. Always seek the light: the darkness will dissipate. By being mindful of the present moment, you likely will discover a totally different world filled with abundance.

Though most likely your prognosis is good, you cannot help but question your mortality. Permit yourself to step out of the immediate terror and assess your situation somewhat objectively. Draw upon your personal faith, confidence in your medical treatment plan, and whatever else you value for strength. A world of opportunity awaits...and your cancer diagnosis gives you “permission” to go exploring!

What have you always longed to do, but haven’t? What old friends have you been meaning to see, but haven’t? What relationships would you like to repair? Take advantage of cancer’s wake-up call, and start living your life as only you can.

Want to act a little crazy? Want to do something out of character? Want to pursue a long lost dream? The gift of cancer gives you permission. It’s amazing what you can get away with now - if you really want to. Chances are what you want to do is not that outrageous - it’s only convention and habit that have prevented you from stepping out of your self-imposed boundaries.

Granted, practicalities may deter you from following every whim to its fullest. But allow yourself to consider the possibilities. Dreams frequently have a way of making reality more palatable. Readjust your life as you feel you are able. Make plans for the future - because you do, indeed, have a future. Even those with the most dismal prognosis, can and should look forward. Hope always exists. Don’t insist that every moment be perfect, but attempt to see the most positive aspect of every moment.

Are you cherishing each moment of your life or is it a rushed blur? When was the last time you felt awestruck by a magnificent sunrise or sunset? Have you recently savored the warmth of sunlight on your face or the coolness of wind cradling your body? Do you take time to watch the stars sparkle and dance in the sky or what about the ever-changing panorama of cloud sculpture? The gift of cancer can bring a remarkable clarity and closeness with the environment. I now have a clear appreciation of the Native American blessing “draw strength from Mother Earth while accepting peace from our Father in Heaven.” Simply allow yourself time to commune with nature, and you are apt to find yourself filled with wonder, astonishment and peace.

“Inhale peace; exhale despair.” “Breathe in hope; blow out fear.” “Inhale healing; exhale disease.” “Breathe in love; blow out turmoil.” Mindful meditations. Sensory awareness. Healing touch. The gift of cancer puts you in touch with an entire community of caring individuals eager to equip you with tools for coping with everyday stress that others may never know exist.

Now may be a time that you learn how much you are truly loved and cherished. Those “others” who have avoided a life threatening diagnosis may never experience the outpouring of affection and respect that you likely will. Let yourself discover how many people truly love and admire you. Harness the energy of those loving thoughts that surround you - both near and far. Embrace this affection as an integral part of your healing.

Let yourself be open to the love that is waiting to surround you. Love is everywhere...waiting to be tapped. Don’t be afraid to tell those close to you how much you love them. Chances are they need to hear those words as much as you need to say them. Likely, you will be astonished at the extent of your support system. Now is not a time for isolation. Express your feelings like you never have before. Always remember: hugs are wonderful healing tools. Allow relationships to strengthen and deepen. Now is also a time when someone close may disappoint you. Be careful. Don’t let an unfortunate incident put you off the path of self-discovery and healing. New friends will emerge if you grant permission. Your circle of caring will continue to expand. Be open. Acquaintances once taken for granted may soon develop into your most cherished friends and soul mates.

On a practical side, learn to become an excellent manager. Delegate. As you are able, allow others to manage your appointments, your home, and your daily needs as you focus on healing. What complications of your life can you release to someone else? Accepting assistance is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength in that you know who you are - and what you need. In accepting offers of help, you are giving to the giver as much as he or she is to you.

The gift of cancer brings a new awareness of your body; its strengths, its weaknesses. If you use your gift wisely, you’ll learn how to cope with your fluctuating energy reserves. Chronic fatigue was, perhaps, the most difficult “gift” that I had to accept. Hopefully, you will learn the following lesson quicker than I did. Think of your energy level as a bank account. More than ever before in your life, you must replace with rest what you withdraw with activity - or you will soon be overdrawn! Pace yourself. Like many of the gifts, this one translates into your everyday life - long after you complete treatment.

Recognition and acceptance of death as a natural transition of life will likely come to you sooner than most. Yes, confronting your own mortality is uncomfortable. But you must. The gift of cancer can bring a sense of peace and serenity that few know. At the Ting-Sha Institute retreat, that I attended, Commonweal cofounder Michael Lerner challenged us to describe our concept of death “with Zen-like brevity and fullness.” A daunting assignment, but one with infinite rewards. After you’ve dealt with the possibility of dying, you are freed to savor the reality of living. Today, I celebrate each sunrise and sunset. Never have they been more stunning -and I am confident that tomorrow’s will be even grander.

Live, laugh, love as though your life depended on it - it does. Wiggle your toes in a carpet of grass. Be open to the romance of life. Laugh a lot. Cry when you feel like it. Let the child in you emerge. Talk about your dreams, your fears, your expectations. Take time to listen. Discover your source of peace and strength. Spend time there. Touch and be touched.

In the end, it’s love. Cherish yourself and others. Find joy in everyday experiences. Allow yourself peace. Embrace each day.

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I love this message! When my Dad was first dx. with cancer this was my dream for him. I did everything I could to get him to live life. He has received so many gifts this past year. Unfortunately, he has not been able to overcome his depression and free his mind. All my efforts were not in vain, I have learned so much about how to really enjoy life. I hope to always remember these lessons learned.


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I am not sure I would say cancer is a gift. I would however say the lessons learned, the appreciation for the clarity it provokes are gifts. So much of what you have said is beautiful and I wish that all cancer patients were able to see or feel the way you have written it but sadly they are not. A depression can set in that doesnt allow any of those things you speak about to transpire.

I dont have cancer that I am aware of but my Brother and Sister did and I know I never considered that a gift to me or the rest of the people that knew and loved them. It was prayers said day and night hopeful that cancer could be erased and health could return.

Please dont get me wrong, I see what you are saying and see the gifts that can be derived from the dx of cancer but cancer in itself is not a gift in my opinion.

God Bless you,


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I've read your post several times. As a lung cancer patient I can relate to what you are saying. Yes good things can come out of having lung cancer, maybe I'm lucky, because there has been a far more positive side for me then a negative side. I have lost tack how many people have said to me I'm very lucky and fortunate that I have BAC, to which I respond yes I am. I know people who are in the same boat as me, they consider themselves terminal, I don't. I know people who are perfectly healthy and I have a better outlook on life then they do--go figure. It's all how one looks at things and life. Again I enjoyed reading your post and I thought it was well written.


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