Recently, I had the privilege of being part of Lymphoma Canada’s video “Alive Again” (if you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it here; I can’t get DJ Champion’s song out of my head).
By: Alyssa Burkus Rolf
Recently, I had the privilege of being part of Lymphoma Canada’s video “Alive Again” (if you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it here; I can’t get DJ Champion’s song out of my head). It is a video that speaks to the resilience of cancer survivors, and what it takes to move beyond the weight of a cancer diagnosis and focus once again on living. After confronting the realities of cancer, how do we create renewed faith that a future is possible?
“The ‘alive again’ comes when you realize you are going to live.”
Some cancer battles do not end well, and everyone entering into the cancer world – as a patient, caregiver, family member or loved one – knows that this might be true for them as well. Once the outcomes become clearer and you know this is a battle that you will win, you begin slowly to become more comfortable with thinking beyond your illness.
It was years before I was able to believe – truly believe in my heart – that I had a future. I would tell people that I believed that cancer would not end my life, but it was years before the voice in my head allowed me to believe it. Having a form of lymphoma that continues to recur makes it difficult to ignore, but I have learned that if I focus on living well today, it gives me the confidence that my future is bright as well.
“It’s easy for cancer to take the best parts of your life while you’re still living it.”
When facing a life-threatening illness, there are times when we become paralyzed about making plans because we don’t know if we’ll live to see them come to fruition. We stop contributing to vacation funds, or buying new clothes because ‘what’s the point?’ We are so overwhelmed with the weight of the diagnosis that we let the negative thoughts cloud our ability to see the beauty in life right in front of us. Whether cancer, or any other struggles in life that become a burden, we need to remember to live well. This doesn’t mean living irresponsibly or spending money you don’t have, but figuring out how to cherish and celebrate the life you have. You are alive!
“It’s is always there . . . it’s always whispering in my ear a little bit.”
The process is different for everyone, but as our bodies heal, we start to imagine what might be ahead for us again. We wonder if we’re brave enough to dream again.
For many survivors, cancer continues to have a presence in our lives. Whether physical aliments that continue after treatment, or lingering fears about recurrence, many cancer patients say that it never quite leaves them.
For me, it is rarely a day that lymphoma doesn’t cross my mind at some point. I have been living with this disease for over 11 years, so I’ve had lots of time to come to terms with it, and understand the ups and downs. I’m not at peace with it (which would feel too much like I’m “allowing” it to stay), but when it whispers, I’m ready.
“The only important thing is to live.”
It is amazing how the “busyness” in your life can fade away and priorities come into sharp focus when you are diagnosed with cancer. In many ways, it is as though your life becomes suspended in time, as you deal with treatment, tests, and seeking reassurance from the results that you are winning the fight. Maxime (DJ Champion) talks about putting everything – his music, his public life, all of it – on hold to deal with his illness. “The only important thing is to live.” You cling to this thought, and it frames everything you do. For some, life is forever changed, and focusing on the things that matter continues to be a reality.
In my own life, I have always said that I make each day count, but there have been many times when I was only going through the motions. It has only been in the last 18 months that I finally decided to practice what I preach. It hasn’t been easy, but I have made changes in the way that I work and live to ensure that what matters most is front and centre. It’s not perfect, and things slip from time-to-time, but I am doing everything I can to live according to the priorities that I’ve set.
All of us, whether facing cancer or other challenges in our lives, can become so consumed with busyness that we forget to live – truly live, with purpose and passion. At times, being busy fills up the days and keeps us from taking too much time to think about the things that are broken or causing us pain.
Please, please . . . don’t forget to live your life. Live it fully – deeply, purposefully, and without regret. Use today as your own “alive again” reminder. Are there changes you need to make to live your life more fully? Let the experience of cancer patients give you the nudge you need to truly be alive again.