Cancer jolts you awake to small things that never mattered before. It's like turning up the sound on your sonar in an underwater submarine. All those marine life sounds that blended into the background before? They roar into clarity, and you hear the whale songs and the whoosh of the fish swimming by, all that normal life flow that just swam past oblivious little you before is wondrous, important, noticeable now.
I try to tell this to my friend who has the tumor in her lung. The first day, the sounds of my words go in one ear and out the other, her eyes dull, her head too full of words like "cancer" and "prognosis" to make sense of words like "beauty" and "blessings in disguise". This doesn't surprise me, because I was her once upon a time, on the first day of cancer. But three days later, she is laughing, telling me how she taught her son how to mow on their lawn tractor, the one with the trigger clutch that pops wheelies when you put it into gear, how they spent a whole afternoon doubled over together over this little simple joy. Mother and son and their ghetto lawn mower. She is awake now. Awake in ways she never would have been without a tumor growing in her lungs.
I wake up this morning, four and half years after my own first day of cancer, six months after my first day of remission, and this is what I see: a hill painted in an impossible pallete of reds, greens, golds, oranges, the sky an impossible shade of azure. I wonder: would I have ever been awake to beauty without cancer? To pain? To the bittersweet and haunting preciousness that is life? Would I have marveled at the gift that is each day with my children, each day able to perform my job, each night able to sleep flat in a bed at home next to my warm husband?
Who can say they would take back yesterday just to get rid of the bad? Would we really throw out all the good with the bad? We are not sovereign. And for good reason. We can't make such decisions; we can't even comprehend them.
All I can do is wake each morning, and walk through the day, unwrapping each small gift as if it is the best Christmas gift ever, and praise God for using the pain of my journey to give me eyes to see.
The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I'm glad you came
Can you spend a little time,
Time is slipping away,
Away from us so stay
~from Glad You Came, The Wanted~