From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength


I suppose I was asked to write the foreword for this book because I’ve been pretty public about my personal encounters with adversity and how I’ve managed not just to survive, but also to blossom as a result.

Let’s face it, bad things happen to good people. It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but what we do when adversity strikes, how we grow through it, and what becomes of us as a result, is what makes the difference!

Most things, both good and bad, are opportunities for us to become more refined versions of ourselves. What I mean is, a better human being: more compassionate, more mindful, more present, more generous, and more loving. It’s through the rough spots that we see what kind of stuff we’re made of.

It’s usually on some random Wednesday afternoon, that life decides to bite you on the ass. Quite suddenly and without warning, your world, as you knew it, changes forever.

It’s extremely difficult to wrap your mind around what has happened to you. It’s so very hard to grasp how irreversible and permanent it all is. And alas, to realize that there is no way out.

How long can I indulge this agony? How bitter am I allowed to be before I begin hurting myself even more than I’ve already been hurt?

From the depths of despair you must choose: remain mired in grief, anguish and self-pity, or pull yourself up, dust yourself off, and play the hand that you’ve been dealt. Play it as elegantly and courageously as you possibly can!

This is the crossroad where one eventually stands. Are you to continue on the path of the living dead, or will you embrace a new normal? I chose a new normal.

I am a cancer survivor. After two years and eight doctors, I was finally diagnosed with uterine cancer. At age forty-two, I was told I would need a radical hysterectomy. “What? Say that again. This is ME we’re talking about!”

I, who never had children, now never would.

I can’t tell you how angry and frustrated I was. I felt betrayed by the medical community as well as betrayed by my own body. Over and over I questioned, “Why me?” I’m the one who was everyone else’s caregiver, not the one who needed care!

I actually thought of myself as some kind of superwoman, brought to earth to be the strongest, smartest, most over-achieving human. I felt responsible for my entire immediate world while demanding nothing short of perfection from myself.

So being diagnosed with cancer not only shook me to my core, it cracked open that protective veneer, the false self, I had identified with for most of my life.

For the first time ever, I became someone who was terribly frightened, extremely vulnerable and worst of all, out of control.

Cancer instantly leveled me to the ground. I suddenly found myself in a situation I couldn’t sweep under the rug or go it alone.

I had to accept I wasn’t a superwoman but just a woman that walked on the ground with the rest of the mortals.

After I hung up with the doctor, I had to muster up the courage to call my parents, knowing full well my news would cause them great pain.

I had always avoided being a burden to anyone, but especially my parents!

My mom was surprisingly strong, although I’m sure she had a primal scream after she hung up the phone. I allowed them to make it about me (I did have cancer after all) and accepted their offer to fly to LA and stay through my surgery and recovery.

It was in that moment I felt the profound shift from being needless to having needs. From being the caregiver to being cared for.

My old way of being was totally dysfunctional and I’m quite sure contributed to my getting cancer in the first place.

I mean a person can’t just give, give, give, but never take. That’s how you become emotionally bankrupt; and frankly, I had been running on fumes for a very long time.

Life lessons and silver linings continued to gently reveal themselves.

Another example was with my ex-husband Peter. At the time, we were not on speaking terms.

He was opposed to our divorce and felt so hurt and abandoned by me, he moved to New York as soon as we completed the final season of The Nanny. (This became an ongoing source of pain, guilt and sadness for me.)

But when our manager Elaine told him I had cancer, he instantly burst into tears and in that moment, all of his anger melted away and all that was left was his love. We remain the best of friends to this day.

Then it happened! I had an inspiration that would help me on the road towards a new normal. I decided to write a book so what happened to me, (misdiagnosis and mistreatment), wouldn’t happen to other people.

It took me four drafts, longhand, before I struck a chord with my comedic voice. The process was very cathartic, but also helped me realize that, side by side with grief lies joy.

My boyfriend coined the title Cancer Schmancer and the book became a New York Times Best Seller. Thus began my new normal.

The book led me on the lecture circuit during which I began to develop a vision. It became clear there was a need to adjust our thinking, lifestyle and activism, when it comes to our health. Hence began the Cancer Schmancer Movement.

-Transform from patient into a Medical Consumer.

-Knowledge is Power and Stage 1, when cancer is most curable, is the cure!

-Detox Your Home because the home is the most toxic place we spend the most time in.

-Voters and elected officials need to fight for more awareness, education and chemical regulations.

Believe it or not, I helped make a law!

My efforts got me a mention in the Congressional Record and an appointment as Public Diplomacy Envoy for Health Issues at the U.S. State Department.

The global political, literary, and medical worlds opened up to me.

I realized that turning pain into purpose was healing and helped to make sense out of the senseless. I suggest it for anyone wishing to add a greater depth and resonance to their lives.

I’m now a far healthier woman than I ever was before the cancer, with a true connection to my feelings and vulnerabilities. I’m finally able not only to give but also to receive, and factor my needs into my decision-making process.

I’ve emerged out the other side an activist, philanthropist and an environmentalist.

Also, my growth has enabled me to be in a mature and loving relationship with a new and wonderful man, Shiva, the love of my life.

I’m not glad I had cancer and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I am better for it!

Sometimes the best gifts come in the ugliest packages.

~Fran Drescher

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