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Beverly's Story: Finding the Silver Lining

04 April, 2021

I thought of cancer as a dark cloud over me, so I was determined to find the silver lining in it. I wanted to believe something beneficial could come out of my journey. I might gain personal insights or be strengthened in some way. I wasn’t sure, of course, but I was willing to look for some ray of light in the midst of dark skies. I don’t mean hoping to open the front door to movie cameras, balloons, and a giant check from Publishers’ Clearing House! I thought I’d start by looking around for positive things which may have escaped my notice.

I made a list which turned out to be short but substantial. I realized I had met new people who enhanced my life, acquired an increased empathy for others going through difficulties, and learned I had control over my attitude. Perhaps your experience, though entirely different from mine, might have some of the same elements.

Having cancer treatments introduced me to many new people. Even if it was a nodding acquaintance with the oncologist’s receptionist or a stronger bond with a nurse in the chemo lab, I gained new relationships. The nurses were unfailingly caring and my fellow chemo patients were interesting to converse with, making the hours pass more quickly while we were hooked to IV’s. 

Also on my list of enriching relationships were my doctors. I’ve read enough stories to know this isn’t always a typical experience. For me, though, I feel as if I can call both my oncologist and my surgeon a friend. I got to know my oncologist over a year’s time (and still see him) and my surgeon over months of follow-up care. In every interaction both doctors were compassionate, honest, and took time to answer questions. I don’t know what else to term an on-going, caring relationship except “friendship.” Perhaps you’ve also added relationships due to your experiences. 

Since I could relate to people who are going through trials with cancer, I had empathy for others. I utilized my deeper concern by reaching out to other cancer patients. I began writing about my experience in the hope of offering some encouragement. I also found ways to support other cancer patients in my community by becoming an advocate for patients my surgeon referred to me (through, a cancer outreach).

In addition, I became a “Reach for Recovery” volunteer for the American Cancer Society. Finding ways to give back was personally satisfying. While I was helping others, my own trials seemed lessened—another silver lining. 

After a cancer diagnosis, it seems we are in control of so little. The procedures are required, the treatments are scheduled, and our bodies dictate new limitations. However, we can control at least one thing claims Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor. “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

I’m not comparing cancer to his experience, but the wisdom applies in any case. It takes effort, but one may choose a positive attitude even during suffering. I started looking for things, however fleeting and small, to be grateful for. Emphasizing the positive elements does not minimize the seriousness of what is happening, but it does shift our focus.

I found much to appreciate as my list of positives grew, including sunsets, hummingbirds, and a dinner provided by a friend. There were sweet little things inspiring bright moments of gratitude. For example, on my first day of chemo, a friend surprised me with a quilt a church group had prayed over as they stitched in uplifting verses such as Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine…”

You’ll be able to compile your own list. Hopefully, reading it over, you also will find the silver lining in a cancer-cloud.