Huh?? Cancer as empowering? This might seem shocking. On that dark day when “you have cancer” came out of my doctor’s mouth, I felt anything but empowered. I didn’t think I could handle the surgeries and chemo, physically or mentally. Wasn’t sure I even wanted to try. I didn’t feel empowered while I was going through treatment. But when it ended I was proud of what I had done. And now, 20 years later, I’m still passionate in my belief that cancer is empowering, even though it may not feel like it.
It WAS empowering to make it through nine surgeries and four rounds of chemo. To laugh about my GI Jane haircut. To remember my “Three tries and you’re done” rule for needle sticks. Who knew?
I might have been sick and bald, but as long as I could choose to laugh and refuse to be poked, I didn’t feel like a victim. This little bit of control was enough to keep me sane. It was a valuable lesson that carried forward into my healing and my new normal life.
When asked “What empowered you about your experience?” cancer patients who are ending treatment say things like:
20 years of survivorship have confirmed, for me, that the essence of feeling empowered is being willing to try something when I don’t know how it will turn out. I became an expert at that during treatment, and I’ve cultivated my ability to not be in control, or have all the answers in order to embrace not knowing how it will turn out.
I want you to know that every time you’ve made a choice to do something that scared you, or was uncomfortable, or different than what you were used to, you were courageously stretching yourself as a human being. You were expanding your faith in your own ability to influence events. You brought some of your own brand of empowerment into the chaos of cancer.
You have accomplished something powerful if you are reading these words! You’re alive. Give yourself a round of applause. And remember if you can do cancer you can do anything!