The 8th Blessing of Cancer – Change

Last month we drove from Mexico City back to the United States. Right before the move, Paul had a dream that he lit the entire contents of the garage on fire. It was a happy dream.

The worst part of moving is looking at a sea of boxed stuff and knowing that someone has to find a place for it all and that someone is you. But the best part of moving is asking yourself, “Why do we have this anyway?’

People assume that we are jumping up and down for joy to be back. I have to say that we feel a bit shell-shocked, sad, and are in denial. After dedicating almost the last 3 years to creating a group of funds in Mexico, coming back was the last thing on our minds.

But cancer was forcing us to make a change. In Mexico, we tried to apply for an international healthcare insurance plan with coverage in both places. We were rejected multiple times, so I traveled back to the US to get treated. Miraculously, we have never needed Mexican insurance in a big way. But this January, our US policy was also cancelled so we are now on Cobra. As you know, Cobra is expensive and temporary. Before it runs out, we have to find new insurance because I will have a 6 month waiting period for pre-existing condtions. No one, it seems, wants to insure a small US employer group when the founder lives in Mexico.

So here we are. We have packed and unpacked a house yet again. The stuff has expanded and then shrunk and continues to shrink. I am finding purging to be very healing (Don’t tell Paul. He may dream about a fire in the garage, but he likes his sock collection).  After living out of a suitcase for the past 2 years, I realize that you really don’t need that much stuff.

Considering the last 3 years, we are back where we started. Everything is the same and yet absolutely nothing is the same. And that’s the beauty of change.

Change is a basic human need and we all want some sort of change, but the kind of change I usually look for is a nice vacation in Playa del Carmen or a new haircut – adventurous, temporary and happy. Change is fine if it is slowly incremental and doesn’t mess up my “regular” life too much.

But change in life is more like “You have cancer,” or “Congratulations, you are in remission!” or “We are canceling your health insurance.” or “Your daughter’s been in an accident,” or “We need to move back to the States.” It is usually largely shocking, sometimes thrilling, and sometimes completely inconvenient and exceptionally hard.

I was baffled about why we were living in a foreign country, starting a new business and having cancer all at the same time. It has been a fabulous adventure and a panic attack all rolled into one. After our first year in Monterrey, I told Paul that it was the hardest year I’d ever had. I never knew what was coming in the next two.

It is only now, after a few years of being under severe pressure, I realize that it has been compressed growth. We have had to dig deep. We have questioned our assumptions. We have been in an environment where people do things completely differently. We have prayed harder than we’ve ever prayed to find answers and inspiration. I’ve cried a lot. Paul has been stressed, but is strong, stellar and can handle absolutely anything with grace. We’ve relied on faith, family and the service of others.  We have asked for divine direction at every turn and have not been disappointed in getting the help we needed.

The outcomes have been painful but I feel completely worth the pain. Why? For me the education has been enormous and overwhelming, but permanent. I have been changed at my core.

Living in another country has made me ask, “Why are these people so happy and gracious?” Living in other people’s homes where the physical order and beauty gave me a deep sense of peace made me ask, “Can we make our living environment as peaceful and pretty?” Being physically incapacitated has given me greater compassion and understanding for physical suffering. Receiving service and the love of others has given me a greater desire to serve others and a deep awareness I’ve never had before.

I’ve always set goals because I believe personal change is a fundamental purpose of life  – that we can be better today than we were yesterday. I love how Benjamin Franklin made a list of desirable traits and tracked his progress every day. We can always choose to change for the better. As someone once put it, “The possibility of change is always there, with its hidden promise of peace, happiness, and a better way of life.”

But no amount of goal-setting could have produced the personal change that has occurred in the last few years.

The change that cancer forced is not something I welcomed, but I am realizing its purpose.

If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I would not pass it round.  Trouble creates a capacity to handle it.  I don’t embrace trouble; that’s as bad as treating it as an enemy.  But I do say meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Trouble creates a capacity to handle it. I see that. The changes I feel inside could have taken 20+ years to realize, but have been compressed into 3. Because of the depth of the challenge, it has been a life-altering and unforgettable experience that has expanded our vision and abilities. I am not the same person I was when I started.
The transplants reset more than just my plasma cells. With the exception of my hair, I’m quite happy with the new me.
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