Enjoy Life!

Enjoy Life!

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

Enjoy Life!

Time: consoler of affliction and softener of anger.

Charles Dickens

Ann kept saying, “Look two years down the road.” But what was I supposed to be looking at? I was sick, tired and scared. The future was uncertain, and the road ahead looked endless and filled with so many obstacles. Can my body hold up? Do I have enough inner strength and faith in God to meet this challenge? Will I find sunshine and happiness at the end? I didn’t know the answers, but when I felt my eight-year-old’s hand in mine, I knew I had to “look two years down the road.”

Ann was a friend of my husband’s family, and when she heard I had cancer, she suggested we get a second opinion. The answer was the same: chances were fifty/fifty that my cancer would come back. But she didn’t give up and got me an appointment with a private doctor who was one of the best in the country. He suggested I go through some stronger chemotherapy in five months and predicted I’d do well. He gave me a better chance of surviving and believed I’d live to a ripe, old age. Hope came like a sunrise.

And I had Ann: “Don’t believe statistics, because no two cancer patients are alike.” I thought, If four out of ten people survive longer than five years, then I’m going to be one of those four people. I visualized that I was healthy, and the cancer cells were disappearing. I did this every day.

My will to survive strengthened every time I looked at my sons. My older son was fifteen, and I knew he still needed me to help him over some of the bumps in life. My younger son was eight, and he needed me more than anyone else. I remember praying that God would give me just ten more years to live so I could see my younger son graduate from high school.

Finally, one day I got tired of living in fear. I got angry! I remember thinking: If I am going to die and no one knows when that’s going to be, then I’m going to enjoy the time I have left! I realized that if I did live a long time, I’d end up being mad at myself for wasting so much of my life when I could have been enjoying it. A nurse told me when I first started chemo, “I believe that when your job on Earth is done, only then will you die.” I thought this was a wonderful outlook on life, and I began to feel the same way.

I honestly believe these thoughts were the real turning points in my fight against cancer. I started on the long journey to continue conditioning my mind to stop worrying about when I was going to die and started to live one day at a time. It took a lot of mental training to overcome my fears, but soon days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and I was still here. I knew there would still be bad days ahead, but I now had the inner strength to deal with them.

Ann was right—it took two years for me to complete my treatments and feel better. There were still occasional days when I was afraid, especially when I had to have a bone scan or blood work done to see if the cancer was still in remission.

Underneath it all, I was amazed and awed by the way my life had turned out. I saw my younger son graduate from high school—an emotional day for me. I felt remarkably well and was doing things I had never dreamed I’d be able to do: laughing again, working a full-time job and watching my family grow up.

What would I tell someone fighting cancer? Look two years down the road—when your treatments are done, your hair has grown back, and your body has recovered. Believe that you are going to beat the odds even when it doesn’t seem possible. I did. Persevere. There were times I was utterly exhausted and wanted to give up, but I knew my family needed me.

Find the reason you need to survive and hold onto it. Don’t worry about dying. That is in God’s hands. Just live and be grateful for each joy, each day.

Regina Dodson

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