Did Cancer Make Me Perfect?

By Rachel Pappas, Author, Health Writer and Founder of 1UpOnCancer.Com

So often I hear people say cancer raised them by the hairs on their neck, and helped them become the person they wanted to be.  Well, I had definite ideas of who I wanted to be and who I DID NOT want to be way before cancer. And I had been trying all along to better myself.

I wanted to nurture the people who matter most. I wanted to be happy and radiate that happiness. I wanted to be like Mary – Mary Poppins with her spoon fool of sugar. Or Mary Jenson (aka Cameron Diaz) in “There’s Something About Mary” (though I’d rather bypass the zipper fiasco on prom night, and the “cumlick”  do (sperm hair gel).

So I always worked to be who I wanted, but I have had serious anger management problems over the years. The wires in my head would tighten then pop, and I would explode. Then feel sick when I’d see the smile slide off my daughter’s face or feel my husband’s hurt.

Has cancer changed me? Yes. For one, sometimes I feel the pressure is on more than ever before to get it right.  To be more like the Hollywood Mary’s.

I especially feel the urgency when I read survivors’ stories about how they have changed hugely for the better since facing “c.” I wish I could say cancer was that powerful, that it made me into the person I want to be. But I am still very much a work in progress.

I can at least say that facing my mortality has opened my eyes wide. This one saying I’ve held onto over the years goes even deeper now: “Never go to bed angry at the one you love.”  It’s my mantra and I hear the echo every time I slip.

I am reminded again, to keep on working at it. And I stop and give a stroke to my daughter, my husband or a friend. Kindness does not make up for the hurt. But as disparaging words can reach deep, so can loving ones. And the more I practice, the more it becomes a part of who I am and what I give.

How else has cancer changed me? It has actually given me one less thing to be angry about. From the time I started this emotional roller coaster, I was having conversations with cancer. Telling it, “You are not going to piss me off because then you win. And I’m going to do everything I can to be the one still standing and to actually be better than I started.”

Funny to think you can turn off the anger at something as big as cancer, then snap over mud on the kitchen floor you just mopped, or anything else as miniscule. And this is what I forever tell myself. Because I want what leaves the deepest imprint on my family and friends to feel good for them, and for me, and for us.

So this is not a Disney story with a fairy tale-happily-ever-after ending. (I don’t like the word “ending” but use it for lack of a better one to make this point): Neither I or my life are perfect. But I will say as soon as I finish this article telling you a little of my cancer story, I’m going to forget about my outrageously long to-do list for a few minutes. I’m going to walk into my husband’s home office twelve feet away from mine. And I’m going to give him a robust bear hug. I’m going to thank him for loving me and tell him I love him too.  I can already see him look up at me, maybe a little surprised, then smile.

Founder of  1UpOnCancer.Com

Founder of 1UpOnCancer.Com

Rachel Pappas is breast cancer survivor. She is the founder of www.1UpOnCancer.com. And the author of Hopping Roller Coasters, which tells the story of her and her daughter, both diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

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  1. My Time for Talk with Madonna and Donnie, Thanks so much for your kind words. And Madonna (is that your name?) I would think if you are on this site you probably have learned much too that any one who’s faced anything hard or who has been through evolutions could learn from. 🙂


  2. Thank you Rachel.


  3. Rachel, You are a brave and selfless person for freely offering your take on living life as with cancer. We can all learn a thing or two from the lessons of your life. Thank you for sharing.


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