“I can’t do this job,” I wailed. “I have cancer.”
Wide eyes. Open jaws. People don’t know what
I didn’t blame them. When I finally regained
composure, my first thought was not about my
health but about my love life. Now who’s going
to want to date me? The rest of my fears piled
on. How will this affect my career? Children?
Finances? My apartment? What’s going
I wasn’t thinking about my
body or my needs in that
terrifying moment. I was
consumed with the future, with
the road map I had already planned.
Chemo demolished that map. The
first treatment sent me to my knees, and
I had six months to go. I needed help.
Okay, God. Let’s do this. I made
an agreement: I wanted God
to get me through this so
I could get back to my
It worked—I made it
through, and my prognosis
was good. Lesson learned.
I checked off the box marked
“Cancer.” Been there. Done that.
Thank you, God. This time I’m going to do
things differently. I promise.
Rewriting the Map
Chemo made me want to enjoy life in a
way that I hadn’t before. I recognized that I
had moved from stressful job to stressful job,
sometimes putting in 17-hour days.
Not this time. I found a job as a counselor at
a school I liked (I had grown tired of the college
environment). High school, not college. A slower
pace. Easier connections with students. And I
traveled! City trips, then kayaking and sailing. I
got involved with a community of young cancer
survivors. I was doing everything right—I even
started dating again.
Then I got slammed. Blindsided a second time.
Another cancer diagnosis just a year later. If I
was scared the first time, the second time, all I
felt was rage.
Everything was in place. Everything was
perfect. This was not what I had planned.
What are you doing to me, God? I already
passed this test.
Detour Through Anger
The treatment for round two was more
devastating than I had ever imagined. It
was scarier and harder, and the prognosis
less positive. The doctors said I needed a
bone marrow transplant. I was furious.
Anger made me strong. Pushy.
That’s how I took it on—like an
angry marathoner. A mountain
climber fueled by rage.
When I was done with
treatment, I drove myself
hard to get back to my
job. I was still terrified
of losing my career
especially after I’d
worked exceedingly hard to
get those things back after the
I simply couldn’t keep it up. The aftermath
of the treatment brought new challenges. Pain.
Exhaustion. It took everything I had just to
make it through the day. I had to quit. Leave my
job. But I loved it. And that meant I would lose
my apartment. But I love it.
I had to train the new school counselor—
the one who was replacing me. I introduced
her to my students and watched her go
to meetings that didn’t involve me. My
road map, my careful plans, demolished.