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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can you have cancer and be happy? You betcha!

Jeanne, author of The Assertive Cancer Patient (one of my sidebar links, and a recommended read for everyone!) has asked a circle of cancer bloggers to write about being happy despite, or even because of lacking some of the "health" part of the "health and happiness" that most folks wish for. As I drove around eastern Nebraska yesterday, visiting 5 of the 270 great public libraries that grace my state, I thought about what happiness means to me, and if my definition has changed much since cancer has come into my life. I think I have returned to the things that made me happy when I was 12 - petting my dog, riding my bike, talking with my girlfriends, reading good stories, dreaming about the future, and watching the stars at night. The things that are different now are: my dog gets to stay inside, and doesn't have to be an outside dog (Mom, you really missed the fun of wrestling blankets from under 70 lb of dog!); my bike has tassels; my girlfriends live all over the world (man, what we could have done with email back in the 7o's!!); I get to read books with the really good words in them without having to hide the covers with brown paper wrappers; my dreams about the future include my husband and kids; and I can watch the stars at night way past Tonight Show-time, if I wanted to. In addition to these things of happiness, I have the legal ability to drive a car with the windows down on a warm summer night and sing with any or all songs on the radio if I want to.
If the 'dreaming about the future' item made you pause, it shouldn't have. Just because I caught cancer, just because I went 30 times behind the big door to the radiation room where no one else goes with you, just because I can no longer enjoy the nuances of a good shiraz or my mom's fried chicken, just because I flinch from a sunbeam like Dracula - all that and more doesn't mean I stop dreaming about the future. I still wonder what I will do if I ever give up being a librarian and become the next superhero. I think of seeds that have been planted in projects that I have taken part in or classes that I have taught, and I wonder where and what form those seeds will grow. I pass by the many areas of construction in my neighborhood, and dream about the buildings that might rise against the sky someday. I watch the cars that drive the same paths created by the prairie schooners so many years ago, and dream about what conveyances will be passing the same way years from now. I listen to the financial channel in the mornings, and dream about how my baby-sized 401K is going to be doing this time next month...
Thanks to this cancer episode, I have met the kindest, smartest, most creative, and most giving people, and they have all made me happy to be around them, near them, or just know that they exist on this earth at the same time I apparently do. That fact, and those 12-year-old happy things more than make up for the things I used to like to do but can do no longer. Here's to happy times for us all in the moments ahead.
And here are links to the other stories that I hope you visit:
Happy Days
Health and Happiness
The Jar of Rocks
This one's for Jeanne
Health and Happiness
and more to come...


Jeanne said...

Teresa--you caught it: the things that made us happy when we were 12 are what make us happy now. It's true for me too, and I didn't even realize it.

Animals. Reading ALL the time (a book a day, usually, like I did when I was 12. Also hiding what I was reading and hiding under the covers at night to read past bedtime). Simple things.



Dr. Lisa said...


That was wonderful. I too feel a little bit more genuine to the girl I was at 12 and think that some good may come from slowing my life down.

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