How can you learn gratitude from something that wreaks havoc, turns lives upside down, tortures children and families with unbearable treatments and choices (that are somehow borne anyway) and takes lives?
On the day of Zoe’s diagnosis, I could never have imagined that I would owe childhood cancer any gratitude. But in a strange and improbable way, I do.
- I am grateful that it taught me to let go of anxiety (all that worrying never prevented cancer did it?) and find joy in the everyday, as Zoe did even on the worst days of her treatment.
- I am grateful that I had to stop trying to manage everything myself and learn to accept the kindness of family, friends and strangers. It’s made me a kinder, more empathetic person.
- I am grateful and honoured to know the men and women who dedicate their lives to saving chemo kids’ lives. The career of some of the oncologists at Starship spans the period where ALL (a type of Leukaemia) went from a 10% survival rate to a 10% mortality rate.
- I am grateful that Zoe felt so loved by the nurses who cared for her. (The doctors, she didn’t feel the same about, though she maintained a very giggly flirty relationship with her primary Oncologist. Yes three year olds can flirt).
- I am grateful to have had the support of volunteers and organisations dedicated to making the quality of chemo kids’ lives as good as it can be, and the strangers who donate to make that possible.
- I am grateful that her hero, Dr Harry, agreed to grant her wish and was such a worthy hero. She might not ever have found him if it wasn’t for childhood cancer.
- I am grateful for how the experience shaped Zoe into a deeply empathetic and thoughtful little person.
- I am grateful to have met some amazing children on this journey, survivors, those still on treatment and some who like Zoe did not survive.
- I am grateful to have met their parents, some of who have become very special friends.
- I am grateful that I met others who have walked this path before me and shown me how.
- I am grateful that I can do the same for others who walk behind me.
Other improbable gratitudes:
- I am grateful that I had six and half years to get to know the beautiful soul of my daughter.
- I am grateful for the two and half years she had in remission, for all of the living, fun and joy we packed into it.
- I am grateful I never asked for Zoe’s prognosis, so I could live those years without it hanging over us.
- I am grateful that when Zoe’s cancer returned, it advanced so swiftly, we didn’t have to make the hard choices between quality and quantity of life. It was too late for those.
- I am grateful that for that reason, she didn’t have to face losing her hair again.
- I am grateful that Zoe got to spend the last few weeks of her life with her mother and her father spending all their time together with her. She never gave up on that.
- While every day I wish she was with me, some days I am grateful that she never had to learn how full of hate and brutality the world can be.
I still (often literally) curse childhood cancer every day. But I also recognise the strange gifts that it brought us.
Are you improbably grateful for the lessons and people you found through some difficult experiences or circumstances? You’re welcome to share your thoughts here.
This post was written for 1000 Voices for Compassion’s November theme. Bloggers from all over the world publish on the themes on the 20th of every month. You can find their facebook page here, their website here, or search the #1000speak hashtag on twitter. Click here for the link up to see all of the November posts in one place.