Like other births and deaths, cancer can be a major life-altering event. Survivors often divide their lives into Before Cancer and After Cancer. I’m coming up on my six-year cancer-versary. I can barely remember what life was like before that. My new life began with the massive upheaval of diagnosis, treatment, and side effects. I spent years after that trying to convince the medical and insurance worlds that my significant side effects were real. I gave up when I realized that this battle was exhausting me and keeping my focus on what I had lost.

I’ve been focusing instead on the life I have, and on what I have gained. I can’t work, but I no longer have to get up and go to a j-o-b. My time is mostly self-directed. I’ve lost my income, but now live a simple and supportive life in the woods. Because my energy is limited, I am no longer disturbed by minor problems––and almost everything is minor! Being mindful of how I use my energy each day helps me prioritize my spiritual path.

Most importantly, even though I have had layers upon layers of losses around cancer, I now have great appreciation for every day I travel on this planet in a human body.

This fits with what the Osho Zen Tarot* has to say about sorrow in general:

“This pain is not to make you sad, remember. That’s where people go on missing. This pain is just to make you more alert––because people become alert only when the arrow goes deep into their heart and wounds them. Otherwise they don’t become alert. When life is easy, comfortable, convenient, who cares? Who bothers to become alert?….The pain is not to make you miserable, the pain is to make you more aware! And when you are aware, misery disappears.”


*1994, St. Martin’s Press