I thought for a while about whether or not I was going to write about my experience with cancer. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in reading about lil’ ol’ moi and maybe this journey was just for me to have in my heart and soul. But then I would meet someone going through a similar experience ― not necessarily cancer even, but any daunting life challenge ― and I felt a profound desire to be a support and perhaps a guide for them. Their response was always so positive and appreciative and it gave even more meaning to everything I’ve been through. Then I would meet someone’s friend or family member who was caring for someone in this situation, and they were feeling so helpless. I found myself compelled again to share about my experience, trying to give them a sense of what their loved one might be feeling and needing, encourage them to hang in there, and assure them how much their support and even just their presence means to people like us when we’re in the thick of this major event in our lives. It is impossible to truly understand how it feels to go through these kinds of physical and emotional challenges if you are on the outside looking in, even if you’ve been through it many times with a family member or friend. Especially because oftentimes the person going through it must turn inward and they are unable to truly share their experience with those who so desperately want to help.
After thinking about it more, I also realized that perhaps telling the story was a natural part of my psyche. Many of my favorite childhood memories are centered around the observation of Passover. Over 20 years of the annual tradition of sitting around the table with my family and cherished family friends, always with my grandparents (until they each had passed away), whether we were at their home in Maryland or they had flown down to Miami, and my Grandpa running the Passover service (called a seder). The part in the Haggadah (the prayer book used for conducting the seder) that always stuck out in my mind (besides singing all those fun songs at the end) is where it says that it’s in the telling of the story that we, and our children, and our children’s children will remember the journey of our people. I also took it to mean that in the retelling, we would learn certain values and principles and gain invaluable life lessons about family and faith, and that everything we have in this life, good or bad, is a blessing. In each retelling we relearn this for ourselves, and as I grew and changed from one year to the next, these lessons had new and deeper meaning. During the 3 years of my cancer journey, many of those ideals were crystallized in a way that made an indelible impact on me and I think for those around me as well.
My main hope is that perhaps the life lessons that I acquired through such abrupt, life-flashing-before-my-eyes circumstances can be heard and felt by others in similar situations, as well as those who are not coming from within this experience. I hope to impart the idea of truly holistic preventive medicine; that is, proactively attending to the health and fulfillment of mind, body, and spirit so that happiness, inner joy, joi de vivre is a state of being no matter the physical circumstances, rather than a goal to be working towards or something that is thrust upon one’s priority list because of a life-threatening situation. And so I share my stories ― myself ― with you.