(I did the Richard Petty ride along experience
at the Charlotte Motor Speedway!
Boy, those cars go fast....!!!)
Have you ever noticed that you find special things when you are not looking for them? That is what happened to me tonight. I found an article about Joe Kogel. The guy seems like an odd duck, but he made a few comments about his experience with melanoma that hit home for me.
Kogel was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at age 25. He is another cancer warrior who believes cancer has actually been a good thing for him. He explains in the article that "steering into the skid of his fast-approaching mortality forced him to learn how to really live." What better way to put it? Like me, he went from being a healthy 20 year old kid to learning he may not even get to reach that dreaded 30th birthday. Getting old no longer seems like such a bad thing when you learn that you may not be able to...
I have talked to many fellow cancer warriors about how we no longer sweat the small things. Sure, we still get pissed off when our co-worker is being a brat, and yes, we still hate waiting in line at the grocery store, but I can promise you that you will never hear us complain about having the "worst" day just because something minor went wrong. The worst day in our books is hearing our oncologist tell us that the cancer has spread, it is not knowing what the next month, the next scan, hell, even the next day will bring. A bad day is hearing that your fellow cancer warrior has died. That's a bad day.
Sometimes I find myself losing patience with people who complain about how horrible their lives are simply because their boyfriend broke up with them, they had a bad day at work, etc. It makes me wonder how they would handle a real problem. Then I remind myself that those issues are big deals to them. When you compare cancer to the daily problems of people, cancer wins. I have had to learn to have patience that even though my problems are life threatening, the problems of others are still important.
Kogel says, "Life is filled with moments and the more open to them you are, the richer your life becomes. Not easier, not better--richer." Is that how cancer has affected you? I know sometimes I act like I am cheerful all the time, and usually, that is true. No, this experience has not been easy--physically or emotionally--but the one thing that I can control is my emotional response to it. Because of this cancer, my life has become enriched with love, knowledge, and motivation. Kogel explains it well. He says, "Cancer's just one of those things that intensifies whatever's going on. . . . Cancer really provided me the oomph, the leg up to take the next step. The next step was dying. I died of cancer. Whoever I thought I was at that time died."
Isn't that how we feel?
If you meet a cancer patient and they tell you that the cancer has not changed them, I will tell you that they are lying. The person that I was for 23 years of my life died on January 10, 2011 when the dermatologist informed me of the seriousness of my melanoma. And boy, it has been a struggle for others in my life to adjust to the new me since the diagnosis. I may look the same, at times I am the same, but I truly believe that I have been changed for the better. I am becoming who I really am meant to be thanks to melanoma.
Melanoma, as Kogel said, has given me the oomph to take my life to the next level.
That oomph, I believe, is what makes me a survivor.