The gifts of cancer

Not long after my most recent chemo treatment, I felt pretty awful. I, again, wanted to cut off my legs and arms. I took many, many drugs (I have a nice little pharmacy by my bedside these days) in an attempt to stop the pain and nausea spreading through my body. I felt so weak that I needed my husband to help keep me balanced while I walked from my couch to my bathroom. I nearly passed out while trying to get groceries with my mother. I thought, once again, this will never end. I will feel like this forever. I will never go outside again or see my friends again. I will never want to touch food again. I will never stop crying. Life stinks.

And then it passed. And I saw my friends. And I was laughing and running around (well, not running, but walking at a normal, non-zombie-like pace). And I was eating enough to feed a 300-pound man (which, as many people know, is how I eat under normal circumstances). I began to make plans and do things that didn’t involve lying in my bed all day with the shutters closed. I put on pants that didn’t have the word “sweat” in their name. I went out to a restaurant. I planned a spontaneous getaway with my husband to my grandfather’s place up in the country, in an attempt to escape from my surroundings for a bit and pretend that I even have the option to go on any type of vacation right now, like everyone else.

After I’ve been cooped up inside for a while, I find the sun blinds me. I believe I might be turning into a vampire, which wouldn’t be too bad.
After I’ve been cooped up inside for a while, I find the sun blinds me. I believe I might be turning into a vampire, which wouldn’t be too bad.
I got to hang out with my sister over her holidays. She’s pretty and she’s going to be a doctor.
I got to hang out with my sister over her holidays. She’s pretty and she’s going to be a doctor.

Creepily following my husband with my new fancy camera
Creepily following my husband with my new fancy camera

Couch-hanging. I've gotten really good at doing this
Couch-hanging. I’ve gotten really good at doing this

My grandma's rocking chair <3
My grandma’s rocking chair ❤
Don't mess with this guy while he's drinking wine and reading the Sunday Times
Don’t mess with this guy while he’s drinking wine and reading the Sunday Times

Some people like to talk of the “gifts” that cancer has given them. New perspectives on life, love, family. Realizing what is truly important in this world. During these nice moments over the past week or so, I did feel very grateful. To be feeling good, and happy, and loved. Feeling the sun on my face or the warmth of the fireplace. Spending time with my husband away from distractions, and away from the hospital. When you know what it feels like to feel like you are at death’s door, you tend to appreciate the moments when you feel good and healthy a lot more than the average person might.

That being said, you will never catch me talking about cancer as a “gift”. Sure, there are quite literally gifts, like this package that arrived from my friend Lily today.

A bunch of fun things, including an awesome polka dot scarf which will be perfect for my head. I love polka dots. Thanks Lil!!
A bunch of fun things, including an awesome polka dot scarf which will be perfect for my head. I love polka dots. Thanks Lil!!

I love getting stuff in the mail. It is one of the few things that really excites me these days and I appreciate everything you kind people have sent me.

However, cancer itself – NOT a gift. And to be honest, I kind of want to smack people who refer to it as such. I read a comment on an article I was reading, where a woman talked about all the blessings cancer had given her, and said she wouldn’t change anything if she had the chance, because she had been given these “gifts” as a result of her cancer.

Barf. That’s what I say to that.

I appreciated everything in my life pre-cancer. I have an amazing husband, family, and group of friends. I knew what I wanted out of life. My priorities were straight. I didn’t need cancer to “show me the way” or teach me the value of life. Sure, I might have a deeper appreciation for many things now than a lot of people do. But I’d much prefer not to have cancer, and to have my regular level of appreciation be restored. I am 28 years old. I don’t want to feel that each day is a blessing, because who knows how many days I/we all have left. I want to have many days left. And I want to be able to take that for granted. I am 28.

Cancer is not a gift. It’s an ugly, humiliating, miserable, frightening disease. There are nice moments throughout and small silver linings here and there. But this is no blessing. And if I had the opportunity to change it all and go back to being a regular boring person whom none of you would ever care to read about, would I? Hell yes.

But since I can’t do that, I will continue through this bizarre cycle of feeling like death and then coming back to life yet again.

And, of course, I will continue to accept your gifts, in the mail. Gladly. Because if cancer has taught me anything, it’s that getting presents is awesome.


29 thoughts on “The gifts of cancer

  1. I agree with you 100% that cancer is not a gift. I am shocked every time I hear someone say that it is. I hate that I have cancer, but will remain happy with my life despite the shitty turn it has taken. Good luck with your treatments. I haven’t started chemo yet and am terrified to do so…so it’s been nice reading your blog and knowing that people do survive no matter how bad it sucks.

  2. Hey Missy!!!!

    Old Man Winechuk here!!!

    I’m not gonna lie to you, I shed a tear reading your blog as it brings back memories, but going forward I’m gonna enjoy reading all that you have to say as it is humorous, articulate, and most important REAL!!!!

    Dumb Ass Cancer and everything about it Sucks!
    Where’s that person who wrote it’s a gift????
    You smack her and when she’s down I’ll kick her LOL

    My saviour was my family, friends, the staff @ PMH and my crazy ass attitude… and you have all those and then some working for you!

    If you’re feeling shitty, get lots of R&R. If you’re feeling good, Go Big! Either way, remember that first and foremost, it’s about you and what works for you:)


  3. Hi Steph love reading your blogs. i didn’t know that yesterday was national cup cake day
    I think I will have one in you honor. screw the calories

    Love you

  4. You rock, and you know I love reading what you write. Let me know when you’re ready for another gift of food 🙂

  5. You are an amazing writer and I have passed them on to my daughters Jaclyn and Stacey By the way – are looking quite striking and pretty in your scarves.

  6. You are so right Steph. Cancer is horrible and i wish that you didn’t have to go through it. I’m glad to hear that you were able to “escape” from it all for a few days up north. Thinking of you often and praying that 2013 brings better news. Lots of love xo

  7. Steph, yesterday was the annual “Cupcake Day” and I was thinking about you. Then I read your wonderful blog. You are an amazing writer and I look forward to reading your refreshing comments.

  8. Your blog is amazing – you are such a gifted writer – you say it like it is – pure, raw, funny, all of it. I wish you nothing but the best in the many, many years you will be walking this planet with rest of us.
    Hugs from Calgary.

  9. Girl. You are so amazing and I love you just reading your words. You are going to live a long and full life. You have to

  10. Hi Stef,
    I had to comment on your latest blog as I can fully relate to the fact that I, much like you, certainly appreciated every moment of my life. I didn’t need a “close call” to help me appreciate those around me who share their love and their lives to make me and my family complete and stronger without having to deal with scary, life-threatening experiences. Yep… cancer does not have any of the qualities of any gift I wish to receive ever again! 23 years ago when I was smacked over the head with that monkey on my back called cancer, people would say, “you are so lucky-it could have been worse” I thought “Lucky? Nah! I would much rather win the lottery of a different kind”. Then again the truly lucky part is that I am here 23 years later and chatting with you and wishing you a full and lasting recovery! Your strength lies in your honesty and open communication. Keep it up, it’s refreshing and gives the rest of us a opportunity to see bravery and ‘chutzpah’ in action! Lots of love and virtual hugs. Fanny

  11. If you were not a writer prior to cancer, you should be when it is gone. I love how you write, even if it is about cancer and not cute lady bugs, puppies and children who make messes with their food. What would you write about if you did not have cancer? Stay strong and know that people who do not know you, are pulling for you while waiting for the next story, not because we are nosy, but because you write, and you write well.

  12. Hi Stephanie,
    Everything you say makes so much sense to me. Cancer is a rough ride and certainly no picnic! Anyone who has had it knows this. Keep blogging!! By the way you look like a movie star in your awesome sunglasses and scarves!!!!!! Terri

  13. Hi Steph, It’s uncle David’s friend Kiki. Three generations of my family from 17 to 85 are following you from entry to entry thinking of you and your family each day. There are gems in every post (today you had me a “Barf” and pretty doctor sisters.) Please know that all you are wishing for yourself, we are wishing for you too.

  14. Sending warm thoughts your way and appreciate your writing, as always. So glad you’re surrounded by those who love you so dearly and that you knew that well enough before C.

  15. Steph, it’s Shira, Maytal’s Mommy. I cry with every one of your blog entries. Maytal tells me not to cry, yeah, not working. As your friend’s mom I can’t help thinking about what your mom is feeling as you go through this ordeal. I’m sure she too wishes that you could back to a boring mundane life. Your writing is wonderful and I’m sure your parents are so proud of how well written and clever you are……but then they too, more than likely knew all that without these blogs. I wish you health and strength…… and drop some hints about other presents you’d love to get in the mail… never know.

      1. Shira — I’m Steph’s mom and you understand as only a parent could. Steph is an amazing young woman and I’m grateful that she has friends like Maytal who are by her side — through the good and the tough times.

  16. Dear Stephanie – I am a friend of your Uncle David’s and he has been sharing your blog. First of all, right on to today’s entry re the whole “gift” concept. Your writing is fluid, crisp, full of reality – ups & downs, and funny as hell. And yes, writing can be therapeutic, as you said in your very first post….I hope you are finding it to be so; I know your readers are. Sending all sorts of hopeful wishes, from an appreciative stranger. Pam, in Berkeley

  17. You are quite simply a gift, in your words and the honest way you are LIVING with cancer!
    When I’m feeling sorry for my 52 year old self, I am brought back to reality from the lessons I’m learning for a wise, young woman…that would be you!

    Stage 4 NSCLC

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