I’m Glad I Got Cancer

The evening’s emcee stood on the stage and said the unthinkable. “The women I’ve talked to say they’re glad they were diagnosed with breast cancer. That it was one of the best things that ever happened to them.”

Jordan and I were invited to speak at the Pink Tie Ball in Indianapolis this weekend. It was a beautiful mother-daughter getaway complete with a hotel stay, shopping and lots of yummy treats. We topped it all off by sharing our story of cancer and cozys in front of 500 new friends at a gala near the Indy Speedway.

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Jojo with Pippa Mann’s Indy race car

Just before we got up to speak, the emcee, who is a prominent television anchor and health reporter, shared her sentiments. She said she had interviewed countless women who all told her the same thing: Cancer was worth it, because it uncovered a strength they never knew they had.

I silently gasped in my seat. This woman is standing in front of hundreds of survivors. They’re gonna boo her right off the stage! And then suddenly it occurred to me, she’s right.

I am glad I got breast cancer. Grateful even.

Cancer stole a breast, it stole my feelings of immortality, it gave my mother and sister and daughter and future grandchildren a legacy I wish they didn’t have to carry, but cancer gave me so much in return.

Cancer taught me how to feel deeply without being afraid of those emotions. Laugh when I need to laugh and cry when I need to cry, without worrying that I’ll enter a pit I won’t be able to crawl out of.

Cancer taught me that joy and pain exist simultaneously. Always. If we look for the silver lining, we will find it. There is a reason God tells us to rejoice in all things and give thanks in all circumstances. It’s because He knows it’s possible.

Cancer taught me that kindness is a powerful tool to combat self-pity. Doing something for others reminds us of our ability to create goodness in life.

And cancer taught me that a little idea can make a big difference. Jojo’s Cozys for the Cure idea started out with one coffee cup sleeve in exchange for one $5 donation. That was 13 months ago. She’s now paid for 84 mobile mammograms for women in rural, hard to reach areas. If statistics are right and 1 in 8 women are truly diagnosed with breast cancer, Jordan has rallied enough support to save 10 women’s lives. Ten women who will also learn that breast cancer has important life lessons to teach them, too.

So, as unhinged and demented as it sounds, I will say it again: I am glad I got breast cancer.

If you are worried about what the future will bring, about what to do if your worst nightmare becomes a reality, let me encourage you. Whether it’s cancer, a financial issue or matters of the heart, when your battle comes, hold onto the sentiments of the survivors who’ve gone before you and take heart. This fight will uncover a strength you never knew you had.

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