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Cancer on your own terms

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

I once wrote a column about people who go through cancer with exceptional grace.

A few readers said that the column made them angry. The comments were along the lines of, “I’m dealing with a crappy disease and you want me to do that gracefully? Well, phooey on that and phooey on you.”

I’m always a little startled when a column elicits an unexpected response, especially when that response is so vehement.

But I shouldn’t be surprised because cancer affects all personality types and every imaginable kind of person. (That’s one reason I love support groups – I’m constantly meeting people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Cancer is a common denominator that brings us together).

Anyone who’s old enough to have a few gray hairs understands that people are all different and that it’s nearly impossible to change them. They are who they are.

We approach cancer in the same way. People who deal with cancer gracefully likely deal with all of life gracefully.

Other people are more like street fighters who are always on the attack, and cancer is the ultimate enemy. If you’re in a fight, these are the people you want by your side.

This illustrates why there is no single best path through cancer. Each person has to do it in their own way and in a manner consistent with their personality and beliefs.

You don’t have to be graceful. You just have to be you.

 

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

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