Dear cancer,

Two years ago today, you came into my life when I was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, or ACC, a rare salivary gland cancer.

Twenty-two months ago, my palate was removed to take out the cancerous tumor that resided there, and in my nasal cavity.

Nineteen months ago, I finished seven rounds of low dose chemotherapy and 35 rounds of proton beam radiation to hopefully kill the cancerous cells that were left behind after surgery.

Since then, I have been healing in different ways on different days, since the memory of you and the remnants you leave behind don’t leave when treatments end, as I initially believed they would. Yet I am doing my best to live every day as though you are part of my past, and not a part of my future.

As I reflect back on this day two years ago, and the months that followed, one specific memory comes to mind. I vividly remembering praying in the bathtub one night as I tried to soak the stress away from you entering my life. I remember saying out loud that I was going to choose to love you, and not hate you. You are the last visitor anyone wants in their homes, and as hard as those words were for me to say to you, choosing to welcome you in spite of the harm you may bring me, and my family, helped me not drown in your presence. I chose to spend my time and energy loving on others, not fighting your existence. And although you came to harm me two years ago, today I am choosing to thank you for all you actually brought to my life.

Thank you for stripping away all that is insignificant in life and showing me who and what really matters. Because of you I grew deeper roots of faith and our family ties are stronger than ever.

Thank you for reminding me that our time is limited. Now I do my best to make the most the moments and days I get with the people beside me, like my husband and our three children.

Thank you for showing me, and my children, a husband and father who is willing to show up to walk beside us in good times and bad without wavering.

This one admittedly is hard to say, but thank you for making my kids stronger by overcoming adversity because of your presence in our life.

Thank you for the fear you brought into my life and making me see there were two paths for me to choose from: to live in fear or in faith. I chose to live in faith knowing my children were watching how I interacted with you. And how I handled you may help them handle life’s challenges too.

Thank you for helping me see the power of community, and how your darkness will never drive out the love people have to offer one another.

Thank you for introducing me to people who have enriched my life who I never would have met had you not stopped by to visit.

Thank you for taking me to the edge of life where I had no control over the outcome. On the edge I grew closer to God and learned to surrender my will for God’s. On the edge I found an inexplicable peace in trusting God with whatever the outcome would be for me, and my family.

Thank you for taking away my palate and helping me learn that being whole in Spirit is more significant in life than a whole body.

Thank you for giving me an invisible wound to remind me that not everyone’s wounds are visible so now I meet others with greater compassion and grace.

Thank you also for the visible wound on my right cheek from radiation. I view my wrinkled cheek as a memory mark that reminds me that aging with your loved ones is a gift not everyone gets to experience and to have gratitude for every year I get.

Thank you for the uncertainty of your presence moving forward that helps bring clarity and perspective to my days.

Thank you for helping me see that tomorrow isn’t promised so I need to end today knowing I gave it my all.

Cancer, two years ago you came into my life and you tried to stop me from living. Instead you have actually made me live a deeper and more purposeful life. I will use this life I have been given to come beside others and do what is mine to say and do to help others live their fullest life. I will do my best, too, to help the next person in line—from my children and yours, to the next person diagnosed. You came to harm me, but now I see how God is using it for good.

Yes, you taught me a lot. Yet as much as I have learned from meeting you, I’d appreciate you not coming back to visit me, or anyone else. Thank you, cancer.

With gratitude and hope,
Shawn

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Shawn Elizabeth George

Shawn Elizabeth George is an inspirational author and speaker. Her books include Our Struggles Have Purpose, 50+ Life Lessons from my Walk with Cancer, My Journey to Live from the Inside Out, and A Place for Sam(a children's book). She loves to encourage others to use their struggles as stepping stones to rise up into the person they were made to be. She lives in her hometown with her patient husband, their three courageous children and their energetic black lab. Shawn loves her growing faith, quality time with her family, tea and walk dates with friends, and bridging hearts with others, connecting beyond the surface where our truth resides. To read more from Shawn, connect with her on Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to receive her encouraging blog at www.shawnelizabethgeorge.com