My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive;
and to do it with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
I remember going in for my five-year cancer checkup and gleefully announcing to my oncologist, Dr. Marc Hirsh, that I wouldn’t be seeing him professionally anymore.
“Where did you get that idea?” he responded.
“It’s five years; I’m cured!” I told him, surprised he was unaware of such a momentous occasion.
“Well, the chance the cancer will return has diminished greatly, but you still need to be checked for the rest of your life,” Marc replied.
I felt as if my winning lottery ticket had been declared a forgery. After five whole years of waiting to be proclaimed cured, there was going to be no such official announcement.
Of course, back then I thought there were only two alternatives regarding cancer: sick or cured.
Thankfully, I learned there’s a crucial third distinction: survivor. The National Cancer Institute says that’s what we become “from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.” So survivors include folks who have just found out they have cancer, people who used to have cancer, and those who can expect always to have it. I’m pretty sure that includes everybody who has ever heard those three dreaded words: “You have cancer.”
As I write, there are an estimated 14.5 million people in the United States with a history of cancer, and about the same number of new diagnoses is expected worldwide this year.
That’s an incredible total of survivors, but I wonder how many fit only the first dictionary definition of survive: “to remain alive or in existence”? And how many also portray the second meaning: “to continue to function or prosper”?
Functioning and prospering sound a great deal better to me than simply being alive and existing. If you agree and want to see how you or your survivor loved one also can be a “thriver,” keep reading!
I think bestselling author and poet Maya Angelou’s mission statement is a perfect one to apply to our post-diagnosis lives. I’ve been living as a survivor since 1990, when I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of thirty-six. My girls were eight, ten, and twelve at the time, and now I’m a grandmother to six. In the ensuing years, my mission, like Ms. Angelou’s, has been not only to survive, but to thrive, and I’ve dedicated my life to helping cancer patients and their caregivers do the same.
Some of the people you will meet in this book are in treatment or have finished treatment with the hope that their cancer will be cured and never come back. Many (like me) were told there was a high chance the cancer would reappear, but guess what? No one on this earth really knows. (I’m still here, cancer- free, defying the 40-percent survival rate given me.) Still others you will encounter here have been told the cancer is “treatable, not curable” or will never go away. Despite that grim prognosis, some of those folks are in remission, and a few even have no signs of cancer!
And all of these survivors and their caregivers are peace seekers.
They are people like you who want to experience tranquility and contentment no matter what the diagnosis or prognosis. I’ll share their peace-seeking, peacekeeping stories so this book can become a volume of “portable peace” for you. Take it with you to read during treatment or while waiting at doctors’ offices or before you put your head on the pillow each night.
You see, I truly believe finding peace requires a two-pronged approach. It will take effort on our part. There are specific things we can do or not do to help create calm in our homes, our minds, and our hearts.
And it will take trust on our part because there are amazing things that only God can do for us and in us.
Here’s what I think is going to happen as you read this book:
Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79
(If the music video doesn’t automatically load below, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FPBEyfQVts )