Lately, I’ve thought a lot about a conversation I had years ago with a doctor where I worked. He was complaining about some change he didn’t like, and I said something like, “Maybe it would help to think of this as one of those opportunities to learn.”
He glanced at me sideways, and in his gentlemanly southern accent drawled, “You know Carol, at this point in my life, I just don’t think I need another opportunity to learn.”
As I learn to live with cancer, I can really relate.
A recent piece of advice I’m trying to follow is that you can’t have cancer 24 hours a day. When I first heard that it didn’t make sense. Slowly, it’s starting to sink in. I’m still the same happily married me, surrounded by devoted family and supportive friends, a beach addict living in a shore town I love, a writer, coach, and educator who is blessed to do work that fulfills me. Cancer is just one part of me now—it only blots out the rest if I let it.
If you’ve read PEACE BY PIECE, you know there’s a line where Maggie says, “I’ve never had a box of 64 crayons.”
A reader recently told me that after reading that line, she thinks Forrest Gump’s mother might have had it wrong. That instead of chocolates, life is like a box of crayons—full of choices every day to pick the color of our mood.
That feels a lot like another way of saying that I don’t have to have cancer 24 hours a day—that cancer doesn’t have to tint my every waking thought and attitude.
Years ago, after Jim read the line about 64 crayons in a very early draft of PEACE BY PIECE, he bought me a green and yellow box of 96 crayons—equipped with a built-in sharpener. For over a dozen years, that box has sat on my desk reminding me of Jim’s unwavering support. No one ever colors with my crayons, but browsing through the colors often recharges my creative batteries.
And, now I have a new way of thinking about the 96 colors in that box. As I learn to live with cancer—one day at a time, one color at a time—I will try to focus on all the shades of gratitude that remind me I’m still me.