Smiling With Cancer?

What image comes to mind when you think of someone battling cancer? 

For many it might be someone who looks sad, angry, or depressed.  I was reminded today of a different image of those battling cancer.  I was waiting for the shuttle at a local hotel to take me to the center.  What center you may ask?  Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Phoenix.  I have been receiving treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer that metastasized to my lungs for a year now.  As I sat in the hotel lobby I noticed a man sitting across from me with a patient ID band from the center.  I struck up a conversation with him about what type of cancer he is dealing with and what treatments he is receiving.  His face was smiling and he had a positive attitude in his tone.  He was waiting for the limousine to pick him up and take him to the airport.  He was heading home to Tennessee after his treatments this week.  When the shuttle finally arrived there were 4 other fellow cancer patients heading to the center with me.  Our driver, Ramon, smiled and greeted each of us with a hug before we piled into the white van with the CTCA logo on the side.  As we pulled out our conversation centered around a cancer patient who had a poor attitude that Ramon encountered the day before.  This person was described as rude, angry, and selfish.  We were all shocked to hear of such a patient being treated at CTCA. You see, in the past year of being at CTCA I haven’t encountered any patients like the one Ramon described.  Sure, we all have our down days dealing with this life threatening disease, but we have learned not to stay there long.  I have heard stories of other cancer treatment facilities where patients are in wheelchairs hooked up to an IV and sitting in the hallways looking sad.  But, that image doesn’t happen at CTCA.  The staff at CTCA is definitely warm and welcoming.  The philosophy here is to treat every patient with “mother care”.  In other words, treat each patient like they were your mother that you love.

But for myself and others, it isn’t the staff that keeps us smiling, but it is encouraging each other.  Once a person here begins to see that they are not alone and that there is hope for being rid of this disease, they can’t help but walk around here smiling.  I can recall my Dad coming with me one time to visit CTCA.  He said that this place looked more like a hotel than a hospital.  Now you may be someone who is battling cancer.  If you are, know that you are not alone in your fight.  Take the time to reach out to fellow patients and even your care team and get to know them.  Take each day, one day at a time and choose to be positive for that day and smile often throughout the day.  It will make a huge difference for you and hopefully others as well.  Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is definitely carries with it emotions like fear, anger, and depression, but those aren’t the only emotions to be experienced.  There is joy in meeting new friends who are battling it as well.  There is happiness is seeing friends return for treatment at the same time as you.  There is hope as you share and listen to the experiences of other on the journey over cancer.  There is also laughter as you spend time with others away from the place where you are receiving treatment.  Yes, one can smile in the midst of battling cancer.  In this fight, a positive attitude goes a long way towards a cure.

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