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Sunday, March 4, 2012


It is inevitable in this cancer journey, that at some stage I will take stock and seek to count my blessings.

In fact, in my world, it's essential to the daily experience of living.

I've mentioned it before: how my mother has been a staunch advocate of 'gratitude', something that was drummed into my sisters and me from around the time we arrived in Australia.

I think that my Mum, in her efforts to acclimatise to the alien lifestyle we discovered here, always focussed on the fact that, despite our trials and tribulations, we should be grateful that they gave up the known for the unknown for the better life we had.

From this then, it has not been hard for me to become a person that continually checks herself. I routinely count my blessings, I really do. But cancer has truly brought it home.

In fact, it's made me somewhat sensitive to the fact that, for too many people I know, life is not about blessings but a string of apparently unending curses.

Sometimes I think that we are a species of whingers who never run out of reasons to complain or whine about something that is unsatisfactory, that doesn't meet a standard.

For many of us it seems, things are never good enough and we exist in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction: not young enough; not pretty enough; not fit enough; not rich enough; not successful enough; not free enough; not happy enough; not loved enough; not validated enough ... and so the list goes on.

I don't know how, when or why self acceptance became difficult. Was it the day man first saw his reflection in a pond of water? (Admittedly,the Neanderthals were no works of art but really, who cares if your forehead juts out a bit?) Did it begin the day the mother-in-law was invented?

I don't know what pleasure there is from an unrelenting focus on what is JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

It's amazing what a small shift in perspective will do, a shift that cancer has brought.

Thanks to cancer, here is one thing I now know for certain. The greatest blessing of all is life, and we can begin the chain of gratitude from this one simple fact: that we are all lucky simply to be alive.

I have lost count of the moments in which I have gazed of late, at simple things like a changing sky, a bird resting on a telephone line or the mesmerising sight of a full moon and been grateful to be alive.

Yesterday, during my routine late afternoon walk it started to rain so I took off my hat, just so I could feel the rain on my (bald) head. It just felt good, to hear the way it splashed on my skin, to feel the wetness of it, to be part of the living earth.

The smell of the heat off the tarmac, the sound of laughter, or even just a breeze on a hot summer's day makes me glad to still be here, walking this planet and breathing.

From this starting point, I can rattle off my blessings without a second guess: The country I now call home where we should have little to whinge about when you look at the crap that the rest of the world seems to be enduring; the access I have had to such wonderful medical care; my family, my friends, my home and all the support I have received; my interests that have so far stopped me going completely mad with boredom; my mental stamina that has helped me stay positive; the flexibility afforded by my profession that has allowed me to be sick in bed without fretting about obligations; even the love of my dog that has motivated me to get up and walk (I covered over 300 km throughout my chemo). There are so many worse lives I could be living with or without cancer. And I'm deeply grateful for that.

On top of this, as I will detail later, cancer in itself has been a blessing in disguise, providing a lens through which I have been able to gain a new clarity about people and things around me.

The one thing I have learned up front is that there's a universality about the way we humans think and feel. So instead of judging each other, we should be embracing each other as sisters and brothers, all co-travellers on the same, long, hard road.

In fact, I feel teary when I think about it: how human beings are generally good and we are all of us, just a little too hard on ourselves.

Although I am nowhere near the end of my journey, already I know that if anything, cancer has expanded my blessings.

So the problem isn't counting them.

It's keeping track of them.

1 comment:

  1. You've put into words exactly how I felt during my journey and still do now (except for the 300km bit!).
    Thanks for taking us on your journey with you Bron.
    C xoxox