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4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

Look at what you’ve got and make the best of it. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~ Proverb

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One Sunday night almost five months ago, my father broke the news that one of my uncles had been diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer. I remember my reaction as being somewhat surprised and not surprised. I was surprised because it was the first time that cancer came this close to our family. Most family-related cancer stories I’ve heard until that point were from second cousins and great-aunts and -uncles. And yet I wasn’t too surprised because my uncle was a heavy smoker and a former heavy drinker. Four days later, my uncle underwent his first chemotherapy session. Some relatives gave us weekly updates about his condition. Dad himself visited the hospital three weeks later and noted how fast he had lost weight. Although still under chemo today, my uncle is strong enough to do most of the things he used to enjoy before his treatment began. What is more notable, however, is his radical change in attitude towards life. Several weeks ago when mom and dad visited him, mom said that my uncle didn’t care about passing soon. “If I die, then I die”, she recalled him as saying. Today, however, that fatalistic attitude seems to have vanished. I’m not sure how the change came about, but he’s very enthusiastic about life now. He smiles a lot and seems to be more concerned about enjoying life with his family. By nature, he’s bossy and arrogant. But even that attitude is now tempered with a bit of brighter thoughtfulness. In my recent visits to his home I simply couldn’t help but be drawn to him. His brand new zesty character is highly contagious to everyone, including me.  I want to share with you what I learned from him:

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1. Appreciate and Enjoy Food More.

One of the first things that struck me about my uncle is his change in attitude towards food. Although he ate a lot, he actually used to complain habitually. He’d complain about being served too much vegetables; he’d complain about stews having too much broth; he’d complain about desserts being too heavy and cloying. Today, he is now more appreciative and thoughtful. At a recent family lunch, there was one “experimental” pasta dish prepared by one of my aunts that I found really weird-tasting. Not my uncle. He complimented the dish and told my aunt, who was a beginner cook, how he appreciated her trying something new. My aunt reveled in the praise and promised all of us that she’d continue learning how to cook. I think us well folks complain too much about what we eat, just like my uncle used to do. But if we think about it more deeply, eating is not just about food—it’s also a bigger aspect of our culture. It brings families, friends and colleagues together. Whenever we take the time to appreciate food and express it, we invite good vibes at the table. With good vibes follow fun moments, and with fun moments follow stronger bonds and relationships. Now I am an advocate of good food. If something has to be said for the sake of improving the dish or educating the cook, my suggestion is to sandwich constructive criticisms between positive comments. Or even better reserve the criticism for a one-on-one conversation later. Or maybe, just forget about the criticism!

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2. Find the Good in Everyone.

My uncle used to talk bad about people from time to time even if they had not done anything that would trigger that kind of tirade. I think it was his inner narcissist expressing itself. He liked to draw attention towards himself by belittling other people. Today, when family conversations turn gossipy, my uncle terminates the topic by injecting a positive alternative reason. He’d say “I don’t know. Maybe the pressure from work just got him. We know how crazy his supervisor is” or “Cut her some slack, everyone. She’s done it many times before. It could have been a simple error!” Sometimes, our own inner narcissists manifest themselves too. We focus on or exaggerate negative stories in order to impress our cliques at the expense of other people. One of these scenario’s possible consequences is that our friends could develop feelings of resentment toward the other people. Before we know it, tensions flare between them. Once the truth comes out, we’ll be exposed as nothing but a fantastic story-teller who’s desperate for attention. For all our sake, I believe that it’s always best to find the good in other people. If we need to speak up in order to prevent damage resulting from someone else’s action, we should simply go directly to that person and talk to them about the consequences of their action.

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3. Think Short Term—What Really Matters is Now

To my uncle, every moment became precious when he started chemo.  He appreciates simple things now and he’s not too concerned about the future. He cherishes his time with his family, especially his granddaughter. Whenever I hear his wife or one of their daughters talk about a problem, he’d go “that’s not even a problem! You know you can do it.” We all are guilty of worrying too much. We often think that it’s normal, but in truth, it’s nothing more than unnecessary stress which causes us to miss the good things that we have in front of us. Instead of fretting, why don’t we think of solutions? And if there are no solutions, well, let’s just forget the problem and enjoy the moment.

4. Remember That You Can Do Anything.

I want to share my own story. When I was about 14 years old, I did something that my mom told me not to do. That day I went home with a wound on my left hand. My mom, ever the panicky pessimist, angrily machine-gunned me with names of all kinds of fatal diseases that my wound could lead to. That night I had trouble sleeping because I thought that I would die soon. I was afraid I would contract a deadly infection. In the morning, she and I visited a doctor who, in less than five minutes, cleared my case. My mom with a big smile told me, “I told you so! You didn’t have to worry!” I ignored her comment because I was so thankful that I wasn’t going to die. The sun never looked so bright that day and I felt like I was given a new lease in life. I felt that I could do and face anything in the world. Nothing could stop me.

Final Words…

We fear and worry about too many things today: leaving a job, moving to a new town, opening a business we’ve always wanted to open, etc. But I believe we all have it in us to survive and come up with all the ideas and strategies that we need to deal with all these challenges. The thing is, however, all these instincts will only surface when we’re already in the middle of the battle. My uncle thinks that no other challenge in the world is more difficult than dealing with his condition. Today, he is the family’s biggest cheerleader. How do you deal with a loved one who has cancer? How do you think you’d live your life if you found out you had cancer? I would love to hear your stories. Please share them in the comments section below.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have. It’s important to take time out and remember all of the things to be thankful for that many of us take for granted.

    Here you’ll find 60 very solid things to be thankful for in your everyday life. These are great reminders for you to treasure everything you have.

    1. Good Health

    Even if you’re health isn’t great, it could be worse and you likely still have some working parts to be thankful for.

    2. Money in the Bank

    Having just a few coins makes you richer than most people on Earth.

    3. Good Friends

    Often, it’s the quality of friendships, not the quantity.

    4. Freedom of Religion

    Being able to worship whomever and however you want is something many people don’t ever experience.

    5. Your Parents

    Even if they’re dysfunctional, they gave you life.

    6. Weekends

    There’s something magical about weekends.

    7.Having a Partner

    Being in a romantic relationship can teach you so much about the world and yourself.

    8. Pets

    Pets offer one of the best examples of unconditional love.

    9. Learning from Mistakes

    If we never made mistakes, we wouldn’t learn much so it is one of those things we should be thankful for.

    10. Opportunity to Get an Education

    The opportunity to attend school is something many people don’t have.

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    11. Having a Home

    Whether you live in an apartment, a mansion, or a tent, having a place to call home is something to be thankful for.

    12. An Ability to Read

    If you’re reading this right now, you have a lot to be thankful for.

    13. Breathing Fresh Air

    Being able to step outside to breathe in fresh air is a good reminder how many little things we should be thankful for.

    14. A Bed to Sleep

    A bed is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted, until you don’t have one.

    15. Laughter

    Without laughter, the world would be a sad place.

    16. Safety and Security

    Being able to wake up without immense fear frees us up to really live life.

    17. Cars

    Without cars, it would take a lot longer to get our activities done.

    18. Sunshine

    The sun’s warmth can brighten any day.

    19. Time

    Although we often don’t think there’s enough of it, time is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

    20. Clean Water

    Many people on earth lack access to clean water.

    21. Cell Phones

    Cell phones make talking to loved ones easy.

    22. Love

    The world sure would be a different place if we lacked the ability to love.

    23. Books

    Books provide an opportunity to enter another world all from the comfort of your own home.

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    24. Kindness of Strangers

    Never take the kindness of a stranger for granted.

    25. Campfires

    The simplicity of a campfire creates lifelong memories.

    26. Pain

    Without pain, it would be difficulty to appreciate life’s joys.

    27. Art

    The world would be less beautiful if art didn’t exist.

    28. Holidays

    Any reason to celebrate is something we should be thankful for.

    29. Freedom of Speech

    Being able to express your thoughts and feelings freely should never be taken for granted.

    30. Rainbows

    The beauty of a rainbow is unmatched.

    31. Tears

    Sometimes when there are no words to say, tears express how we feel for us.

    32. Waking up Today

    Simply waking up today means you have things to be thankful for.

    33. Indoor Plumbing

    Indoor plumbing not only provides convenience, it spares us from disease.

    34. Wisdom that Comes with Age

    Thankfully, we grow smarter over time.

    35. Mountains

    Mountains provide us with beauty and recreation.

    36. Eyesight

    Being able to see allows us to view the world’s beauty.

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    37. Grocery Stores

    Grocery stores mean we don’t have to spend all of our time getting our own food.

    38. Sunsets

    Sunsets are a reminder that we should enjoy the simple things in life.

    39. Entertainment

    Entertainment gives us a way to relax and enjoy life.

    40. Your Mind

    Being able to think, remember, and solve problems sure makes life easier.

    41. Employment

    Even if you don’t like your job, being employed means someone thought you were special enough to hire.

    42. Diversity

    The world would be a boring place without diversity.

    43. Moon and Stars

    The moon and stars encourage us to dream.

    44. Electricity

    Electricity makes most of our chores efficient.

    45. Air Conditioning

    Staying cool on a hot day is something people wouldn’t have dreamed about in past centuries.

    46. Hearing

    Being able to hear your loved one’s voice is something that not everyone gets to do.

    47. Children

    Watching children laugh, grow, and dream can keep things in perspective.

    48. Ability to Learn

    The ability to learn new things means we have endless potential.

    49. People Willing to Teach

    Whether it’s your grandmother teaching you to knit or your plumber showing you how to prevent future problems, be grateful that others are willing to use their time and talents to teach you something new.

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    50. Oceans

    The sea creatures in the ocean almost seem too mystical to be real.

    51. Modern Medicine

    Without advances in modern medicine, many of us wouldn’t be alive.

    52. Music

    Music brings out new emotions.

    53. Entrepreneurs

    Some of life’s best inventions resulted from an entrepreneur who was willing to take a risk.

    54. Warm Clothing

    On a cold day, there’s nothing more important than warm clothing.

    55. Freedom to Vote

    Being able to have a say in the laws should never be taken for granted.

    56. An Internet Connection

    It’s hard to believe how easy it is to take the internet for granted, seeing how none of us had just a couple of decades ago.

    57. Challenges

    Without challenges in life, we wouldn’t be the people we are now.

    58. Hiking Trails

    Hiking trails give us the chance to enjoy mother’s nature beauty.

    59. Vaccines

    Many of us wouldn’t be alive without today’s vaccinations.

    60. Armed Forces

    Our lives would likely be very different if we didn’t have protection from the armed forces.

    Realizing all the things you should be thankful for is the first step, practicing gratitude is what you should start doing:

    6 Ways To Implement More Gratitude In Your Life

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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