I have cancer. There are just times when I need to say, in a completely unadorned, non-writer type fashion: “I have cancer.” It’s not that I would forget, otherwise. Believe me. Even if you know nothing at all about having cancer, I know you’ll believe me when I say it’s not something you forget about.

When I tell myself, “I have cancer,” it helps bring a lot of other things into focus. Most importantly, it reminds me of the wonderful life I’m living. The appreciation I have for my family and friends is so much deeper because of the needs created by having cancer. Describing it in terms of color: It has turned my life from, let’s say, a restrained pink to a deep, warm, enveloping maroon.

Early in my cancer days, I wrote about not having a bucket list. I still don’t. I believe if there are things I really want to do before I die, I’d better get to them. So should you.

That being said, I am baffled, sometimes, when there are things I would do “if only…” If only what? If only I had cancer? But I don’t do them anyway.

Look, if I want to sit down and eat a half-gallon of ice cream, why shouldn’t I? OK, it’s mostly no longer sold in actual half-gallons, but in containers designed to trick you into thinking you’re still getting a half-gallon of ice cream. But, you know what I’m sayin’.

Why wouldn’t I just tell myself, “I have cancer. Isn’t it a little stupid to be worrying about my weight at this point?” Right? But, good health is an important aspect of fighting cancer, and eating a whole container of ice cream is not healthy.

At one time or another, I’m sure you’ve made a list of things you want to do or say when it is your last day on a job. Headed for greener pastures, you want to tell off the ingrate who constantly took the last cup of coffee without making more. Or maybe the person who kept presenting your ideas as theirs when the entire staff was working on a project. Or maybe you just didn’t like someone and wanted to tell them so, and list the reasons why.

My friend Peters (real name unclear) left more than one job with a flash, but my favorite has to be when he was fired on a Friday and the boss, who certainly should have known better, didn’t take his key to the building. Over the weekend, Peters went in and moved all the downstairs furniture upstairs and vice versa, just so he could imagine how stunned the people responsible for his dismissal would be come Monday morning.

I know. That was an awful lot of work just to get a little revenge; revenge he wasn’t even around to see. But, still, don’t you wish you could something like that?

I’ve made those lists, but have never done anything about it. Partly because I just didn’t feel it was worth it, and partly because I didn’t want to hurt the other people’s feelings. I know, they didn’t care about my feelings, but, that’s why, ultimately, I can feel morally superior to so many people.

Approached from a certain angle, having an incurable form of cancer can be regarded as the ultimate last day at a job. And I don’t have to limit myself to a narrow band of annoyers. I can do it with everyone.

What I’m talking about is the realization that having cancer hasn’t changed the basic me. I’m a lot more than a person with cancer. So, why would I expect to be able to handle so many situations in a different manner than before I got sick? I’m no more a furniture mover for vengeance now than I was two years ago. Besides, I bet Peters would do it for me, if I needed him to.

So, if you were planning to get cancer as a way to set you free in ugly social situations, I suggest you skip it. No bucket list, no I’m-gonna-say-exactly-what-I-want-to list. Just the list that lets you do the next right thing in each situation.

And if you just have to make some snappy retort in a given situation? There’s always, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m rubber and you’re glue and everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” It destroys them every time.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.


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