The First Blessing of Cancer: Taking Stock

I’ve tried to be healthy, I really have. I don’t drink or smoke. I eat whole grains, have cut out most refined sugars and exercise pretty regularly. Getting a cancer diagnosis was totally unexpected, to say the least. But a cancer diagnosis for anyone; breast cancer for my mother, a brain tumor for my friend’s 5-year-old son, leukemia for my brother-in-law or even lung cancer for my chain smoking grandfather is equally shocking.

The sentence, “You have cancer,” is distressing because it makes the general truth of mortality an immediate and possible personal reality. It is no longer that people die, but that you, your child, your spouse, or your friend could die. And that they could die in a few days, months, or years. Time is suddenly limited and now more precious. In one simple sentence, your life is forever changed.

But the shock of cancer also leads to the First Blessing of Cancer. Saying “I have cancer” felt like a dream. My immediate next thought was, “Oh no. What about…?”

What about my family, my children, my spouse, my future, my life’s work? Whether you react in sorrow, surprise, numbness or anger to the news, you unconsciously and instantly consider your life’s top priorities.

I was suddenly forced to take stock of my life. I had a more pressing reason to ask heavy and important questions: Have I chosen my priorities well? Have I spent the time where it was best spent? Did I build the relationships I needed to create and nurture? Did I serve God? Did I understand His will for me? Was I accomplishing my life’s purpose?

There are two ways of being: task-oriented and people-oriented. There is no question that I am insufferably task-oriented. But when I take stock, all that really matters to me are my relationships – with my eternal Father and His Son, with my family, and with the people I am meant to know, love and serve in this life. Tasks are needful and good, but relationships are clearly the “better part.”

I suppose I am now faced with an opportunity (a forced one!)  to evaluate and prioritize, but an opportunity nonetheless. We all have this opportunity because none of us know when we will die, but it is easy to forget unless we are confronted with the reality.  “All of us have faced deadlines. Fear can grip us when we realize that there may not be enough time left to finish what we promised we would do. The thought comes, “Why didn’t I start earlier?” Do Not Delay, Henry B. Eyring.

I want to eliminate this kind of fear and regret. I hope my opportunity will not be missed. I am grateful for the First Blessing of Taking Stock and know that it leads to eternal truths: time is limited, life is precious, obedience to true principles is joyful, choices matter, and change is always possible.

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