February 4, 2018.
Today is World Cancer Day.
It was exactly 6 years ago yesterday that I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. I remember the day vividly. I was at Toronto General Hospital with Nagib. We were watching a movie on my laptop, expecting that at any minute the doctor would release me. Instead, Dr. Robert Wu, the doctor on call, sat beside me with the news that would change our world forever, “You’ve got multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood.” Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and a month later, nearly lost my life to Acute Hyper Hemolitic Anemia. And then, in December 2015, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer.
The ensuing tests and treatments, on and off, over the past 6 years – chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, stem cell transplant, bone marrow aspirations, blood transplants, MRIs, CT and PET scans, mammograms – consumed a big part of my life. The impact on my family was horrendous. Some days it felt like we were carrying a boulder up the mountain and the sheer weight of it was too much to bear.
I look at my life today 6 years later and I am amazed at how thrillingly well I am doing; most days its a toss-up between feeling great and feeling awesome! I take things one or two at a time. I continue to work but I’m not a workaholic anymore. I no longer define myself by what I do or accomplish. I am much less concerned about what people think of me, instead I focus on what’s important. I have become gentler and more compassionate. I accept, I forgive and I have learnt to let go of what I can’t control. Most importantly, I have re-connected to my soul in a powerful way. My relationship with my husband and children is joyful. I have wonderful friends, a strong community and a very fulfilling life. I feel complete. This is the grace of God.
This monster called “cancer” is a reminder that life is fragile and so you must treat life as a gift from God. It is a reminder that there is a last day for everyone – we just don’t know when it will happen. How sad would it be to face that last day with regrets that you did not live your life fully and completely?
Today I feel strong.
I don’t think of myself as a person who has survived three cancers.
I don’t fear recurrence except when I go for my regular check-ups every three to four months to confirm that the cancers are contained and do not reappear.
I cannot stand to waste time. I love to dance, to learn, to sing, to blog, to connect, to cook, to create, to visualize, to have fun, to give back, to make a difference.
And while I plan to live a long and fascinating life, I have come to terms with the fact that when it is my last day, I will succumb happily, with no regrets. That has been the gift that cancer has given to me; the ability to live my life in service, in balance, in joy, in prayer and in doing my small part to make the world a better place.