Perspective is an interesting thing. It shapes who you are on so many levels. Perspective is the lens you see life through. It creates your beliefs and shapes your behaviors and outlooks. And many times it influences how things play out in your life. We are all unique in that we all have our own view of the world.
My father grew up learning that if you get cancer, you die. His father died of cancer at age 50, and his sister died of cancer at age 36. Years later, his mother died of cancer as well. Since then, he has also had multiple friends die of cancer. It seemed like everyone in my father’s life that got cancer, all died. This was very real to my dad, and it shaped his perspective. His perspective was that cancer was the absolute worst thing that could happen to you. Everything he saw in his life cemented that perspective for him.
His perspective shaped how he raised me. When I was young, my father always told me that as long as you don’t have cancer, you really have nothing to worry or complain or feel sorry for yourself about. All of life’s problems and challenges were no big deal because at least you don’t have cancer. If you get cancer though, well, now you have something to worry about. I saw truth in his perspective when at the young age of 23 years old, my best friend got cancer and did indeed die. I dealt with a lot of challenges in my life. And I always kept it in my mind to count my blessings because it could always be worse. I knew I was lucky and I could deal with whatever was thrown my way, as long as it wasn’t cancer.
And then it happened. I was 39 years old, a mother of three young kids. And I didn’t feel quite right, but what mom has time to be sick? I certainly didn’t. So I ignored the bruises that kept popping up and the fatigue that was dragging me down and waited for it to pass… then the headaches started, as well as blood blisters in my mouth and the back of my throat, and the bleeding when I flossed. What the heck was going on? I was in the best shape of my life, young, strong and healthy! I think we all know where this story is going. I very suddenly got diagnosed with cancer, leukemia specifically. And because I waited so long to go to the hospital, it was ravaging my body and my chances for survival were not good—they told my family to prepare for the worst. I couldn’t believe it actually happened to ME. One day I was fine, the next day I was a cancer patient. And cancer was the worst.
So we all know what my dad thought, right? How this would end? I felt really bad for my dad, for everyone who loved me, actually. Fast forward to just after my first round of chemotherapy. I had a bone marrow biopsy to see what progress was made against the cancer. The doctors came in the room with the results and surprisingly told me there was currently no sign of cancer left in my bone marrow. They said that was an amazing sign, and they were going to have me do five more rounds of chemo just to make sure it doesn’t ever come back. I was thrilled. We all were. It was still going to be a long and dangerous road, but the news was encouraging. I looked over at my dad, and he looked completely stunned. He took a minute to recover and said to me, “Honey, I think you might have a chance.” He was so surprised. I found it so funny that he was basically saying to me that I might not die after all. I actually laughed. Most people would never say that out loud. Everyone in the room was shocked he just said that. But I had a big smile on my face and said, “Awe, thanks Dad!” I understood. I knew his perspective well. I knew that him saying I might have a chance was actually him showing HOPE. Something he had lost with regards to cancer. I took it as a compliment and encouragement. I truly think that before this moment, he never thought I would live. He did not think I had a chance. I was delighted to see his perspective switch right before my eyes. Now, years later being cancer free, I love to joke around and say, “Honey, I think you might have a chance” about all sorts of things. It cracks me up every time.