Friday

Thank You, Cancer

Chondrosarcoma a rare form of bone cancer
Thank you Cancer, for changing my life for the better. Ha ha! Bet you thought you couldn't do that. But, you did. Oh yes, you made me suffer. But, you know what Cancer? I learned a lot about compassion and caring and humanity because of that. I learned to recognize when other people were hurting and needing help. That changed me for the better for sure, because I care about others so much more than before you came along trying to frighten me. You terrified me, in fact. But, because of that, I learned I am stronger than I thought I was. I learned I'm stronger than you, Cancer. Nyah! Nyah!

Thank you Cancer for giving me patience and fortitude, and gratitude. Thank you for teaching me how to be humble and brave at the same time, for teaching me how to cry out loud and not be ashamed. Thank you for helping me to understand that it is okay to ask for what I need, to not feel a burden to others, especially if they have said, "if there is anything I can do..." I understand it's okay to lean on others when I need to, and I can offer kindness in return, too, whenever they need it. And, hopefully, understanding.

Thank you for teaching me how to let go of fallacious beliefs, pettiness, and small minded thinking, for giving me the opportunity to disconnect myself from things unworthy of my attention. Thank you for teaching me what is important and "don't sweat the small stuff".

You taught me to research, to get serious about educating myself in every aspect of my diagnosis, of the condition of my health. I've learned a lot of things I never knew before, important things, useful things that have helped me on my way through life. I've been able to share that information, too. It was hard to learn all that awful stuff you do, but I learned too, how the body works, how science is always making improvements. I've learned there really is hope even in the face of darkness.

Aptos Beach, California
Storm is brewing at sundown 
Thank you Cancer for teaching me to respect my body, to listen to it, to take the best care of it as possible. I certainly wasn't doing a good job of that until you came along. Was I? And thank you for giving me the opportunity to explore the world of nutrition and educate myself, and enjoy food in a whole different way. I have such a large variety of foods I never would have thought about eating before. I've developed better shopping skills and become somewhat of a gourmet. Food is not just something I stuff in my face anymore. Food is something to enjoy fully. Thank you for that, Cancer.

You're not going to believe this one, Cancer! Thank you for helping me get more organized and focused. Oh, I know I will never be perfect at it. But, you know what? You taught me to put my life in order, to take care of business... the important business that I didn't want my family to have to deal with in case I... well you know better than anyone, Cancer, what I'm getting at.

Thank you, too, for teaching me about how to communicate with doctors and nurses and others who helped me. I learned so much about how to get my point across, how to listen, how to keep track of my medical appointments and most of all those very important papers. Yep, back to that organization thing again. And while we are on the subject, Cancer, thank you for showing me that nurses, medical technicians and doctors are human beings, too; that none of them are in the business of making money off me, for showing me that they have hearts and souls and work hard to help people heal.

Thank you Cancer for teaching me how to face my fear of death, my fear of mutilation, my fear of loss of self-identity. Thank you for giving me peace of mind once I learned to accept life with all it's beauty, and depth.

Thank you for teaching me to not get caught up in frivolities, teaching me that an immaculately clean house is not the  most important thing. Sometimes it's more important to rest perhaps even... a lot of time.

Elizabeth Munroz, Sterling Cridge,
Dar Parsons, Storm Cosby
in my messy house, Indianapolis Indiana.1994
Thanks for teaching me that my hair doesn't have to be "just so", that I don't have to be embarrassed about the imperfections of my body or the condition of my skin. It is what it is. I'm so grateful for that because now I don't judge others based upon their appearance either. And it's so much easier to see beyond that outer wrapping and discover a person for who they really are inside. It's so much easier and feels so good to be kind and loving. It takes so much energy to be hateful and mean spirited. I understand that now.

Thank you Cancer for showing me that sometimes it is necessary to stop what I'm doing and take inventory of my life to get my priorities in order. Did you know that, Cancer? You taught me how to simplify my life, to not take on more than I could handle, to not allow myself to be so overwhelmed trying to do too much. You taught me how to say "no" or "later" or "I'll think about it" before jumping in and committing to something I could not complete so I wouldn't be disappointed in myself for failing. You taught me to not make promises I couldn't keep. It lifted a great burden off my shoulders, that feeling of obligation that I was dragging around like a load of laundry. Wow! That's a lot! What a tremendous change for me. I'm not perfect at it, but I'm way better. Yes! Thanks for that!

Thank you, Cancer, for teaching me to be a daredevil. Really... I mean... I like to take chances now that I wouldn't before. Like stand up and walk when they said I couldn't. I might have fallen down. I might have not been able to walk. But it was worth trying. "If at first you don't succeed, try... Well, you know the phrase, I'm sure, Cancer. You've taught me to try new things I would have been too timid to do in the past. Like dance with abandon not caring what people think and have fun, every sweaty minute of it, even though I knew I might hurt in the morning. What did I have to lose? I would be in pain anyway. Might as well enjoy it. Eh, Cancer?

Elizabeth Munroz and son, Xavier Rodriguez
1979 Covina California
And thanks to you, even though I couldn't have a career, I dared to volunteer to teach children how to read and adults how to speak English. I could get up in front of people and give speeches about how to find their ancestors. I did things I never thought I would be brave enough to do, that one thing "they" swore I could never accomplish. I got pregnant and had a baby! Yes, Cancer, because of you I did things I never dreamed possible. Thank you, for that

But now, Cancer, you raised your ugly head to make me sick again after all these years of leaving you behind. I recognized you in your new disguise even though the doctors had not told me yet, and I'm not afraid of you anymore. Go ahead, Cancer, I know you are going to do your thing. But, I'm not cringing. I'm not wishing I could run away. I'm not giving up! I'm going to live my life as fully as possible whether you are in it or not. Because there's one thing I learned on my own Cancer. There's one thing I learned how to do by myself. And that is to face you down and take up the challenge, and fight the good fight and keep on going and do the best I can to cherish each moment, whether dark or light. Because they are MY moments and no one, not even you, Cancer, can take that away from me!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Written and copyright by Elizabeth Munroz
Previous survivor of rare bone cancer called Chondrosarcoma
Presently living with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

11 comments:

  1. Elizabeth... This has touched me to the very core of my being. I will print it out and read it once a day in hopes that I can someday feel this way. It's all still pretty new to me. I am so fortunate that our mutual friends introduced us via Facebook. I just sent the link to all of my friends who have had cancer or been touched by it. Thank you!

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  2. Powerful and inspiring. Words cannot fully express the admiration I feel for you. You go, girl, and kick cancer's butt. I don't have to tell you to keep living the good life. I know you will. Much, much love!

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  3. Beautiful and inspirational. May we all have the grace to face life hardships and walk away with blessings and lessons learned.

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  4. Anonymous2/01/2013

    Hi Elizabeth,
    My name is Dave Saj, and like your friend Carm C., I am a survivor of Multiple Myeloma. I also blog and have a "Caring Bridge" site as well.
    Your essay here is wonderful and I absolutely do relate as it is nearly identical to the attitude I accepted my disease with.
    I believe you would be very interested in the story of one Anita Moorjani. If so, you can google her and read much more about her amazing story of cancer, death, and return! at her website.
    God's Love Be with you,
    Dave Saj

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  5. Oh my Elizabeth. This is one of THE most powerful things I have ever ever read IN MY LIFE! am sharing this on Facebook, Email, Reddit, G+ and everywhere I can. This is just too awesome not to share! I am even going to put a shortcut to it on my desktop so I can read it again and again. Thank you so much for this. It was shared to me by a friend of yours who also has a blood cancer and also shares your love of cats. My friend's name is Carm.

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  6. Anonymous2/20/2013

    I can't believe you wrote this stupid thing! Are you bragging? Did you make this up? You have got to be crazy to be thankful to cancer! You must not have been vvery sick. Maybe you didn't really have cancer and are just taking advantage of those who have and making them look weak. You obviously don't know what cancer really is like. You suck!

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    1. Dear Anonymous, I had bone cancer from the time I was 19 until I was in my thirties. I had seven recurrences over that period of time with extensive surgeries with more than a quarter of my pelvis removed, along with associated muscle and inner parts tissue. Some of it reconstructed and some of it removed permanently. I was a single mother of two at the time and lost one of my children due to my not being able to take care of her. I have "died" twice and been brought back. I had experimental treatment at one time that left me with two gigantic oozing holes in my thighs that did not heal for two years. I also have three auto-immune diseases as a result of the experimental treatment. All this had an intense emotional toll on me. Part of which was due to PTSD. I attempted suicide seven times, a few of them many years afterwards. I had marriages that failed because it was too much for the spouses to handle, all that blood and guts and disfigurement of my body. There's more, but I wont go into that part. I managed to survive all these years and now I've got Leukemia. I've been on chemo for almost two years now, and will continue it for the rest of however long my life is meant to be at this point. It is also taking a toll on my body. If you'd like to know more you can google my name and the word chondrosarcoma. You can watch the interview video that Livestrong posted. If you have any questions, you are welcome to post them here or email me. I am well aware that there are others out there in the world who have not had it as easy as me and my heart breaks for them.

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  7. That last comment shows what that person DOES NOT know. I feel sorry for him/her. And *I* myself need to read this every day and think about what you wrote. We are not guaranteed anything in this life, are we, beyond the moment that is RIGHT NOW. One should make the most of it.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. Somehow the reply I originally made to Anonymous had not been saved. So, I wrote another today. I hope it helps. You're right. We aren't guaranteed anything. Sometimes we get so occupied with things we lose site of the preciousness in everyday living. Savoring the memories of the past as well as being present in the now regardless of the circumstances makes like more poignant for me.

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  8. Anonymous7/22/2013

    I was diagnosed with chrondosarcoma the end of June and just had surgery on 7/17 at Indiana University Hospital. Mine started in the sinus cavity so I had to have the left upper jaw removed.
    I've got a lot of head pain right now and even though I've had a strong will to survive this I'm feeling a little hopeless today. I have lost all feelings on my left side abd the swelling is causing me to bite the insideof my cheek. I can barely swallow or talk and I am on a total liquid diet. Its hard to ever imagine being normal again.
    All of my medications are also liguid. I will have 8 weeks of proton therapy coming up at a very hogh doze since its not very responsive to radiation.
    I've been very upbeat before the surgery but I'm feeling depressed right now.

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I love your comments! I will approve and respond as soon as possible. Thank you for posting them.

I'm sorry that Anonymous comments are no longer accepted. I've gotten too many spammers that way. If you would like to comment directly my profile provides a way to do that.