Value your own story

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 recently spoke with a group in Binghamton, NY about coping with and communicating about cancer. One attendee suggested that I add the importance of valuing our individual cancer stories.

What a terrific idea. Each person who’s been through cancer (either as a patient or a caretaker) has a unique story. For many of us, it’s the most challenging experience of our lives.

Her point was not that we need to always tell our stories, but that we should value these stories in our own hearts.

Getting a cancer diagnosis is the beginning of a sudden trip that no one wants to take. Few of us experience a graceful journey. We make mistakes, occasionally feel sorry for ourselves, and miss the more simple lives we had before cancer.

But we do the best that we can.

It’s sometimes too easy to judge ourselves on what we don’t have or what we haven’t accomplished. Anyone who’s had cancer or helped a loved one through cancer has accomplished something profound.

What’s more, everyone had to find his or her own way. You can’t just follow the path of someone else because every cancer and every situation is unique.

And I’m absolutely sure that this is equally true for individuals who struggle with other illnesses and challenges.

Our scars are a testament to our resiliency. As Leonard Cohen wrote, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for being surrounded by so much light.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

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