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The Gratitude Lesson

I belong to several online groups of women who share the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Collectively, we have experienced every possible complication from the disease, so the wealth of knowledge to be shared is invaluable. But there is also comfort and empathy from these women who understand the fight.

Many of my teal sisters have gone through chemo and surgery, celebrating the fact that they are considered NED (having no evidence of disease) after initial treatment. And for some of them, the disease, even in an advanced stage, never returns. They dare to even whisper the word “cured,” while resuming life as they once knew it. For the lucky ones, battling cancer becomes a distant memory.

And I am envious.

It is easy to entertain thoughts of “what if,” to wonder if perhaps a more skilled doctor might have taken my initial concerns over symptoms more seriously or if a radiologist with a keen eye might have identified the menacing tumor on the original scan, rather than the subsequent one taken six months later. I often question my own passivity at that time, my acceptance of what I was told rather than being my own advocate.

These are the thoughts that keep me awake at 3 a.m.

Sometimes, I even wonder if God loves those He has healed better than me. Like a petulant child, I ask The Father why He didn’t choose to restore my health, too, and question if I am His least favorite. It is irrational, and a doubt-filled way to think, but suffering tends to cloud the mind with unreasonable ideas.

I suppose that it is human nature to question and compare, even if it is an exercise in futility. Undoubtedly, there are some mysteries that will remain as there are no answers. But this much I know: we have each been given a path to travel in life, a destiny to be fulfilled. And along the way, there will be difficulties. We learn about ourselves as we navigate the troubling waters, growing stronger with each obstacle overcome. Perhaps this is also where we grow our faith as we become wiser and more spiritually connected.

Certainly, I am learning to appreciate the small moments of joy, the simple pleasures. Before I became ill, I took everything for granted. That has changed. It has been almost five years since I was diagnosed, a miracle when I consider that at the beginning, when all was scary and uncertain, the determination was made that I had mere months remaining on my lifeline. That was quite the perception shift in how I viewed life. Like a kid holding a bag filled with candy, at first, it is gobbled up with wild abandon, but later, the last few pieces become precious, each bite to be savored. This is where I am now.

I am reminded of the beautiful Garden of Eden that God created for mankind. Adam and Eve were given complete dominion over this earthly paradise with the exception of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Of course, we know the story: unable to resist the temptation, they committed the sin of disobedience. But I think it was much more than that; there were unappreciative for the blessings they had been given, ungracious about the miracles that surrounded them, and greedy for more. They were ungrateful. I remember that as I try not to be.

And as we celebrate the miracle of Easter, we see that early beginning in Eden come full circle as we witness the lesson that Christ’s resurrection has taught us. He showed us what complete surrender through obedience looks like as he offered His body to be broken for our sins. And for those of us who are Christians, we understand the great love behind that sacrifice, which has taught us to be grateful. Regardless of where this cancer journey takes me, I am.

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