Hear me out. I obviously don't mean that the actual disease was a good thing, that is NEVER a good thing. However, it did teach me a lot of good…life lessons if you will. I will share them with you now.
LL #1: Discovering who is really in it for the long haul.
This was a big one. Cancer has the ability to destroy relationships. Some people just can't handle illness whether it's seeing their loved ones hurt, being there for the bad days, or the stress it induces taking care of a sick friend/family member. I am very lucky to have a very large, very strong support system and I'm proud to say that so many people stepped up and helped me out in my time of need.
LL #2: I don't need makeup to look good or be beautiful.
Obviously no woman needs makeup to be beautiful, we all know that despite what society regularly tells us. What I'm getting at is, it takes losing every possible hair on your body to gain a whole new appreciation for the way you look. It takes losing your eyelashes and not being able to wear eyeliner to realize that your eyelashes are good enough on their own. What I just realized today, which actually gave me the idea for this post, is that I'm wearing makeup less often. Now maybe it's cause I'm tired, maybe it's cause I don't remember to put it on because I haven't worn makeup in six+ months, but I realize that I have a new found appreciation for how I look without it. My skin has regained its color, my eyebrows and eyelashes are growing back and I'm realizing that I look just as great without makeup as I do with it.
LL #3: Your hair doesn't define you and you don't need hair to be beautiful either.
I have an unusually perfect shaped head. It's not me being cocky, it's just the truth. Many people have commented on it. When we shaved my head my mom took credit for it because she says she "did a great job birthing me." While not everyone is so lucky, I imagine they still experience the same phenomenon that I did- staring at yourself in the mirror long enough to really take note of your other features for the first time. Yes, I see myself in the mirror every single day, as most people do, but it wasn't until I had no hair on my head that I sat and took a long, hard look at myself and took note, and appreciation, of my features without my hair to hide behind. When you go bald, there's nothing to look at besides your face, no hairdo to distract from that pimple that popped up overnight, or a scar you've had since you were a kid, you're forced to face the world- literally. I've gotten so used to being bald in such a short time that I think it will be weird to have hair again. Which is so weird because I've had hair my entire life- I was one of those babies that came out of the womb with a head full of dark brown hair. It's so strange that being without the safety net of hair for six months can make the seemingly natural experience of having hair seem foreign to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to have my hair back again, but if I had to go bald for any reason ever again (which hopefully would be by choice this time) I won't dread it because I know now, my hair doesn't define me.
LL #4: I'm way more in tune with my body.
You know when you're a kid and you would get that nervous feeling in your stomach and your mom and dad would tell you to listen to your gut? Well, there's a lot to be said for listening to your gut. Your body is usually trying to tell you something. My girlfriend Liz said from the beginning, "If it wasn't for that tumor in your colon causing you so much pain, we may have not known for a lot longer that you had cancer so as far as I'm concerned that tumor saved your life." And she's right. I had no other problems until the stomach pains came. Now, I didn't listen to my gut right away but I've certainly learned my lesson. Going through something like this you have to pay much closer attention to every little nuance of your body. How your muscles and bones feel, how your stomach is handling the chemo, do you have any oddities popping up on your body. Are you suddenly getting unusually cold and getting chills? You may be getting a fever. Do you have numbness and tingling in your extremities? You're experiencing neuropathy. The downside, but also an upside, to chemo is you can suddenly feel every part of your body which makes you aware of any changes really quickly. I also call it an upside because once that pain goes away you can appreciate the freedom of being pain free that much more. It's like that old saying, " Why do I keep banging my head against the wall when it hurts so much? Because it feels so good when I stop." Cancer taught me to listen to my body when it's trying to tell me something and to be more in tune and aware of changes both good and bad and that is priceless. You can't buy awareness like that. (Actually, I take it back, you can. And it comes to the tune upwards of probably over $500,000+ for treatment.)
LL #5: My body is a badass.
I am surprised at what my body can handle. I have been to hell, taunted the devil, and made it back alive and healthy to tell about it. Unfortunately, not many people can say that. I'm proud of my body for handling all this with aplomb. I have been through numerous tests, more blood draws than I can count, having my port put in, having my port taken out, a bone marrow biopsy, three hospital stays, six rounds of chemo-each more intense than the last, countless bottles of medications, 4 rounds of extremely painful mouth sores, 40+ white blood cell booster shots, a STROKE-that my body cleared on its own no less, a blood clot in my heart, blood thinning injections twice a day, numerous doctors visits, and endless medical bills. And that's probably just half of it. And I made it. You don't know how much you can handle until you're faced with it. I know that I am blessed with youth on my side but I also come from very strong stock (Thanks mom and dad!). Fortunately, the last of the medications and doctors visits are quickly approaching and now it's time to celebrate health from here on out.
Now do you see why I said getting cancer was a good thing? A lot of people have asked me if getting cancer and going into remission has given me "new lease on life." I don't like to look at it that way because it makes me feel like I didn't appreciate life before which couldn't be farther from the truth. I think it has taught me a lot of things I would have never learned before though. It's made me a far more positive and tolerant person and I think that those qualities are worth their weight in gold. I may never know why God gave this journey to me and what the exact lesson was that he wanted me to learn. But I consider it a good thing that I came out of it with something positive to say. Maybe one day I will realize why I was given this illness and all the corresponding follow up that accompanies it but for now, this is good enough.