Is cancer a gift?

August 17, 2010

My last post, meant to be a bit humorous, even though it mentioned chemo and cancer, struck a chord. The comments a couple of you made certainly struck a chord with me.

In this discussion, I’m going to use cancer to represent any serious illness –mental or physical.

I don’t have cancer (that I know of) and with any luck, I won’t ever have it. But I do know people who are in remission and people who are terminal.

Of course, life is terminal, so what does that mean, really?

T-shirt from

People with serious illnesses or disabilities often say they look upon their situation as an unintended gift, as it’s brought them increased awareness of what’s really important, new priorities, and spiritual renewal.

Maybe that’s how you get through it, or maybe it really is a gift, I have no way of knowing. It seems as though it’s different for everyone.

Obviously, no one wants to use cancer or other illnesses as their path to spiritual renewal. It would be nice to get there without the disease.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? We have much to learn from watching our loved ones as they travel their path and listening to their insights.

Sometimes, they may not even be aware that they are teaching us.

You’d think those of us lucky enough to NOT be sick would be able to apply those lessons to our own lives. I’m not sure that always happens. Too many of us are experiential learners. (Ahem.)

Just for balance, I’ll also say that I’ve seen people with seriously illnesses behave petulantly and take life for granted. I’ve seen them be unwilling to fight to live and I’ve seen them fighting what keeps them alive. I’ve seen them mistreat others. I’ve seen people use their mental illness as a crutch and an excuse.

Illness does not guarantee insight.

That’s because people who are sick are just like people who are well. We’re only human.

There seem to be at least a few of you who have something to say on this issue, and so I’d like to open the floor up to comments on the topic is serious illness a gift? and if so, in what way?

I know most of you don’t like to comment, but signing in as Anonymous or under a pseudonym is just fine with me. I really do hope to hear from you on this.

3 comments on “Is cancer a gift?
  1. Anonymous says:

    My own personal diagnosis of MS in 1989 was the BEST/WORST thing that ever happened to me! It certainly was a wake up call for me and it did catapult me onto my spiritual track. For me having an illness like MS was not as much as a gift but more like a wake up call.

    I woke up to the fact that I was not living a great life. I had very little spiritual values at this point in time and I was in a dead end job that was stressful and painful to do. I know understand why I got MS, how I got MS and the value of it to me as a great teacher! MS like many other diseases such as ibromyalgia, mental illness, cancer and depression are stress related or can be triggered by stress. I was not taking care of myslef I was smoking and drinking the stress away I was not going to Yoga or the gym I was getting fatter and angrier by the minute I was on the “Highway To Hell” so to speak. Now that I can look back at everthing I can see why I got the disease and I claim responsiblity for it! I am not saying I caused it but I certainly did nothing to circumvent it.

    I would like to say that having an illness is an opportunity to make changes and it is an opportunity to learn lessons.

    Having been diagnosed with MS taught me a lot about myself and helped me to get my mental and spiritual life back on track! I have had MS for 12 years now and I have had three MRIs that reveal NO NEW LESIONS. I don’t take MS medication. I go to yoga, the gym and I try to live a stress free life. I quit smoking cigarettes, lost weight and got on the healthy band wagon. I most likely would not have done those things without the diagnosis. And yes, it is unfortunate that it may take an illness to be a wake up call but at least you wake up. Some of us never do. I go to cancer camps where women are smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol…so be it. Each person and each disease is a journey unto itself and not open to our judgment. Sometimes we just die from our diseases which is ok too. Maybe someone learned a lesson of compassion from a dear friend who was dying of breast cancer, maybe another woman checked her breast and found a lump, maybe someone volunteered at a cancer camp or made a monetary donation to the Susan Kommenth foundation for research. We just don’t know do we but I hate to think that there is no reason for illness at all nor do I think this.

    Having a life altering illness has given me insight and compassion for all who have disease in their lives, physical or mental. My own illness and the illness of those around me is a constant reminder how fragile we really are and how much love, compassion and strength is needed to be truly well in this world, physically and spiritually.

    Namaste…I love your blog.

  2. That is such incredible insight, thank you for sharing it. I’ve been thinking about it for the last while and it’s inspiring me in important ways.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well Carol you did ask an intriguing question! I also sent you the information about the Moth.


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