HeartNote, Tuesday, March 4: "Cancer gave me Attitude."

Updated: Mar 9, 2019

Several years ago, Dianne came to me to discuss her depression. Bad marriage, felt pretty helpless. She wanted to work it out with her husband, so I referred her to a counselor who specialized in marital therapy. We spoke for a while, she got on some meds, felt better, and stopped counseling.

About six months ago, I ran into her at the store. I barely recognized her. She was a good twenty pounds lighter, cut her hair, dyed part of it pink, and had a tattoo on her left forearm. We hung out by the front door and caught up.

"Shortly after I saw you," she said, "I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Got a double mastectomy. Went through chemo, the whole nine yards."

"I thought I was going to die. Everything changed."

"I discovered that time is a restricted commodity. Fear insulates you from focusing on how little time you have. But when it hits you in the face after surgery, after chemo, after you vomit from the nausea day after day after day, you begin to let go of everything that gets in the way of your happiness. Joy is your antidote to pain. And change is the gateway to joy."

"So I filed for divorce, got a job I liked that didn't cause much stress, got a boyfriend that didn't have a problem with my boob-less condition, and we've lived together for two years now. Cancer gave me attitude."

"And let me talk about attitude for a second. When I was sick, I used to live like every day was my last and it scared the hell out of me. Now I live like every day is my last and it's the happiest I've ever been."

"Know this," Dianne said as we left. "I lived inches from death.That's cliche, I know, but when death introduces itself to you, that cliche becomes a reality. My fear gave me clarity. I was lucky that way. You hear about people dramatically changing their lives when they get cancer? Yeah, that was me. And my choice isn't for everybody. But do not be fooled: You're always in death's shadow. That shadow continues to push me into the sunlight of life.

I got a tattoo and dyed my hair. I smile at everybody. I let my feet kiss the earth as I walk. I'm grateful."

"I tried on somebody new, somebody that lives within me. I let her out. I'm happier that way. I wish everybody would do the same."


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