Cancer sucks! But, the truth is that there is also powerful good that can come with a cancer diagnosis. I recently said that to a patient who has just completed her treatment for breast cancer. Her hair has returned and she is rebounding from what has been a very difficult year. When I said that to her, she quickly agreed and told me the following story. Her son had recently had health issues and during a visit with him at a hospital, she saw a bald woman wearing a chemo cap trying to open a door. My patient went over to open the door for her, but instead of just opening the door, my patient put her arms around the woman and said “I was just where you are now, a few months ago! My hair has only just grown back. I was just where you are, not that long ago.” The woman started to cry.
After telling me that story, my patient said to me “You know what?! If I hadn’t gone through all this I never would have been able to do that!” She’s right. And, what she was really saying is that cancer can enable deep intimacy that would not otherwise surface. I don’t mean physical intimacy but rather the formation of authentic relationships, where real vulnerability is expressed and received. It can be so honest and raw and real. And while such connections can be made between two people without cancer, cancer can act as a conduit that forms the connections immediately and to a deeper level than would normally happen. Cancer is a gut job, it’s like taking a house down to the studs. It can be painful, messy and never-ending. However, often during the process there also comes a clear vision and appreciation of what really matters and something beautiful and powerful is created.