Thursday, April 16, 2009
Ok…my good friend Jonathan White does a Thankful Thursday blog every Thursday. You can check out this amazing 15 year old cancer fighter here : JonnandKate's Blog This is my first one and you may find it pretty odd, but I hope to have it make sense by the end.
I am thankful for having had cancer. What? Has he lost it? Yes, I am truly thankful to have had cancer. I have not lost my mind, in fact, cancer has given me a clarity that I never thought I would have. Before I was diagnosed 15 years ago, I was an 18 year old freshman in college living life without a true sense of purpose. Even after cancer, I think I was too immature to even realize what I had just gone through. Honestly, I just wanted to get back to college and forget this stupid cancer thing ever happened to me. You know what? I did just that. I went back to college, and bottled up all of my true feelings. Why? Not entirely sure, but it may have had something to do with that whole stigma attached to cancer. You see, nobody really talked about cancer back then; there was no Lance Armstrong to look up to for inspiration. The stigma was definitely MUCH greater in the early 90s then it is today. The National Cancer Institute had asked me to speak to children with cancer since I was finished with my treatment. I tried, but I failed miserably. I failed because I felt guilty. I was consumed with this enormous sense of guilt because I had completed my treatment and these kids were still fighting. I didn’t think it was fair for me to be healthy. I wanted them to be the healthy ones and I did not think they should have to endure what I just went through. What could they possibly gain from hearing me speak? I can’t really explain it, but I could not have been more uncomfortable speaking to them, so I stopped.
Fast forward 6 years after my diagnosis and I was hit with back to back bombshells. My aunt was diagnosed with Leukemia and my buddy from high school was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins’ Lymphoma. Sadly, my friend Ryan Gascoyne lost his battle and this really opened my eyes. I think I had had an epiphany of sorts. I remember talking to some friends after his funeral and saying that I was going to do something in his memory. Well I did, I completed a century bike ride around Lake Tahoe for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. My aunt ultimately lost her battle as well, but I learned so much from both of them. It gave me a sense of purpose and also an outlet to deal with my own survivorship issues. I have said before that the reasons that I am so involved are both selfish and altruistic. Selfish in that I think giving back is still part of my healing process even after all these years. Altruistic in the sense that if I can inspire and give hope to just one person, then I have truly made a difference.
So, that brings be back to thankful Thursday; had I not had cancer, I know I would not be the man that I am today. Cancer has given my life a much greater depth and purpose and for that I am truly thankful.
Posted by Joe Schneider at 12:51 PM