Our Biggest Sale of the Year is Here!🎄 ➔

Cancer brings a cycle of unwanted questions. Scary questions. Questions no one wants to ask. What if they can’t catch it? What if it spreads? What if it comes back? What if I die? What if I have to leave the people I love behind? Will I break my little girl’s heart?

Last week, I was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, an issue common enoughespecially for womenthat it shouldn’t be cause for alarm. But with cancer looming in my background, frightening questions started fogging up my brain. My doctor said my urine tested positive for a bacteria so rare that medical professionals aren’t even sure it responds to antibiotics. And where it could have come from is anyone’s guess.

RELATED: The Only Word Scarier Than Cancer is Relapse

I took the antibiotics they gave me and noticed immediately its peculiar side effect: sore tendons. So, while I limped around this week, my what-ifs have been particularly haunting.

Every painful step I took reminded me that my health is precarious, that maybe my time is running out. And although my husband didn’t admit to it, I know those insecurities were more persistent this week for him, too.

Part of the challenge of living with cancer is coming to terms with one of life’s great mysteries. We all know we’re going to die, but we don’t know when. And I don’t want that big question, in all of its various disguises, to cloud the time I have left.

So, as my urine burned, my tendons ached, and my mind swirled, I decided I needed to reframe my questions.

RELATED: Thank You, Cancer

What if, along with the angst cancer brings, it delivers a gift, too? Not just for me, but for everyone who loves me, for everyone witnessing my journey and taking part in their own way?

What if cancer motivates me to value quality time over quantity time, and if only for an instant, I discover I can taste eternity in a single, precious moment?

What if cancer teaches me not to say “later” but instead to say “now” and dares me to take more chances?

What if it prompts questions that inspire wisdom and lays bare a path to forgiveness and letting gopaths that help me reunite families and patch up meaningless squabbles. What if it teaches me to sometimes say no and other times to say yes?

What if my experience with cancer helps me embolden one person to quit a dreaded job and start something new, exciting, and beautiful? What if that person finds their calling and uses it to change the world?

RELATED: To the Moms Who Conquered Cancer

What if it inspires art and the fearlessness to share it?

What if cancer creates space for joy, love, hope, and faith?

What if cancer reveals life at its core and peels it back to the sweet kernel of truth and perfection that resides within every human being?

In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank wrote, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” What if the wisdom of a 14-year-old—a girl the same age as my beautiful daughter—shows me what is truly possible, even in a situation as bleak as a cancer diagnosis.

We all have what-ifs. And some of them are beautiful.

Originally published on Breast Cancer News

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Nancy Brier

Nancy Brier is regrowing her hair with her balding husband in Palm Desert, California where they recently relocated. They have an 12-year-old daughter whose hair is perfect. For more of Nancy’s work, please visit http://www.nancybrier.com/

The Art of Showing Up

In: Cancer, Kids
Dad hugging young son

As a father of four boys, you may imagine that life is hectic from time to time for me.  While it truly is, in fact, quite crazy sometimes, it isn’t always because of the reasons you might think.  I have four boys, ages 11, 4, 3, and almost 2, and that certainly makes for an interesting daily living experience for my wife and me.  We do our best to remain patient and lean on God’s strength and peace to fill us on the days that seem overly daunting and occasionally even downright impossible, but we are human.  Therefore, we fail...

Keep Reading

No One Prepares You for When Your Husband Has Cancer

In: Baby, Cancer, Marriage
Family sitting by window

No one ever prepares you for the moment you hear your spouse has cancer.   More so, no one prepares for you to hear this when you have a 5-month-old at home. “Mom, they said the tumor is cancerous, and they need to enucleate his eye on Thursday,” I say quietly into the phone as I pump in a dirty bathroom stall at the eye hospital.   Whir. Whir. Whir. Whir. Gosh, I hate pumping.  Today is my first day being away from my daughter. My mom is watching her while I made the trip to the eye hospital with...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading

Having Cancer at 34 Taught Me How to Live

In: Cancer
Husband and wife on boat, color photo

This picture came up in my Facebook memories today. It took my breath away for a moment, just like it has for nine years now. It was the last picture taken of me before my midwife found the lump and my life changed forever.  The first time I saw that photo, I realized I didn’t know that woman anymore. She was naive. Laying there in the sun without any inkling that a cancer was growing inside her. Look at her—unafraid and without anxiety. Less than 48 hours later, she would be gone, replaced by someone who was afraid of each...

Keep Reading

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

When You’re Barely Hanging On, It’s OK to Ask For Help

In: Cancer, Living, Motherhood
Worn mailbox, color photo

I’m a bundle full of fun. My list of fun things include being diagnosed with cancer at age 33, having the BRAC1 gene mutation, doing six months of oral chemo, having a hysterectomy at 34, my ovaries and tubes out at 34, enduring a double mastectomy, and a million scans and procedures under my belt, followed by five months of oral chemo. I was a stay-at-home mom during this time with a 7, 5, and 2-year-old.  Sometimes I feel like I experienced a whole lifetime in one short snapshot of a year.   At the beginning of my diagnosis, our mailbox...

Keep Reading

This is What Cancer Looks Like

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Mother lying on bed with toddler sprawled across her, color photo

While I was going through active treatment and recovering from procedures and surgeries, certain moments during the day triggered this thought in my head, This is what cancer looks like. I envisioned a still shot of that moment and that title above it. One of the first times I had this thought was when I was lying on the couch watching my daughter play. I was fatigued and my heart was racing, but I was still a mom needing to supervise my 2-year-old.  She came over and held my hand.  This is what cancer looks like. In the days following...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Not in Charge

In: Cancer, Living
Mother with bald head holding child, color photo

My entire life, I’ve felt much pride and comfort in being a person who was highly organized, a planner, someone who truly enjoys predictability. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everything that encompassed my normal way of living was disrupted. And there was no way to fix it. This was not a good feeling—frankly, it sucked. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young children. My first thoughts after my breast cancer diagnosis were how this was going to affect them. Would they even still have a mother in a year? These are terribly hard things to think about when you...

Keep Reading

But Dad, We Were Supposed To Have More Time

In: Cancer, Grief
Man smiling at camera

September 5, 2015 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I found out my dad had “it.” The word I expected but didn’t want to face.  Cancer.  Stage 4 in his lungs, bones, and spine. A week later we were told he had about six months left with us.  Six months.  A half of a year.  He was only 55. People nowadays can live to be over 100. How was it possible that he was only going to live half of a life?  They were going to be releasing him from the hospital so he...

Keep Reading