I’ve never quite understood the debate over whether cancer is a gift. It’s not like one viewpoint is the right answer. Why can’t it be both? Different for different people? Even different for the same person at different times?
It’s no secret that the same experience affects various people in a variety of ways. My experience is not necessarily yours.
The way I see it, cancer is like Halloween. It’s trick or treat except far more people feel tricked and ripped off. Even those who find a treat hiding at the bottom of the bag admit it’s one hard piece of candy.
I once had a fleeting moment when I considered the gift thing only to come to my senses. Mostly I’ve felt if it’s a gift, I’d like to return it. I want a refund in the form of the old me. She was more fun, had more energy and didn’t have holes in her brain.
I wish I were in the gift camp. I wish I had whatever they have that turned cancer into a positive thing. If only I’d had some huge life change for the better. I would have liked to make those changes. I’ve tried. After five years of cancer burn-out, I’d love to chuck it all and move to some island with a slow pace, sit on a beach chair and write to the rhythm of the ocean waves. My circumstances have not allowed an exit from life’s stressors.
Cancer tested my perseverance beyond anything I’d known before. It dug deep into the trenches of my soul in the way only a difficult illness can do. I appreciate aspects of this.
All of our lives are an experience of growth whether we view it that way or not. Growth happens as a direct result of experience. That applies to anything or everything. It’s not about being a better person — unless it is that for you. For most of us, having cancer isn’t about becoming a better person, but struggling after treatment to get back to the better self we were. Cancer destroys and we’re left to pick up the pieces in its aftermath. At least that’s what it’s been for me. Believe me when I say that experience didn’t come with a ribbon on top.
Suffering has its rewards and pitfalls, the latter of which is far more obvious. If there is reward, it’s probably in some airy spiritual sense rather than something tangible. There are degrees of suffering but once a line is crossed, it seems a sacrilege to call it a gift. As an example, I don’t believe rape could ever be a gift under any circumstances. Nor could genocide, the loss of a child, or innocent people being sprayed with bullets by some hatemonger. I’m certain cancer is never a gift for those who are metastatic. Despite the spiritually fashionable trend to put a positive spin on everything, some things are too far over the line to transform into something good. Evil exists. Bad things happen.
Does good come from bad? Sometimes. Just not always. For the phoenix to rise from the ashes, there must be fire and devastation that precedes that glorious flight. When the phoenix spreads its wings and flies, that’s a miracle. That’s something to behold. Not all stories end that way.