A man with cancer just told me that he felt joyous when he was on chemo. That was a little startling because I’ve never heard the words joyous and chemo used in the same sentence before.

He went on to say that the chemotherapy caused his tumors to shrink and, when they did, he suddenly felt much better.

Most people with a chronic illness experience days when their pain fades into the background and they once again take note of the world around them. For a few moments, days or weeks, illness isn’t front and center in their consciousness. It’s a time of relief and reconnection.

We all feel something similar when spring first appears after a long winter. We breathe in more deeply and relish the freshness of the air and of the season.

In our group for individuals with advanced cancers, we often take note of our good days. Someone might say, “Today I feel pretty good, and for that I am grateful.” Everyone nods because they understand.

There isn’t much positive to say about having cancer, but it does cause us to appreciate feeling normal, even if for only a brief time. For most people, normal just is. For people with advanced cancer, feeling normal is a gift.

The man who was joyful on chemo felt joy because his pain faded, his energy returned, and he again became connected with the world around him. As he said, “Like the best spring day ever!”

 


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.
Original publication date: August 17, 2013

 

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