The Funny Thing About Cancer

Learning that my mother has cancer changed everything. From here on out, I’ll think about my time in terms of life before cancer and life after cancer.

Before cancer, I felt that my work and my life took priority over my family. I used to wait days before returning calls from my mom. After cancer, I realized that every call I get from my mom is a gift I won’t have forever.

Before cancer, I had this idea that time was infinite. I have spent so much time doing things that are so unimportant to the grand scheme of my life that I don’t even remember them. After cancer, I view time as the most valuable thing in the world. I respect others’ time more than I used to, and I don’t waste as much of my own. Note to Adam: iPad games and Netflix are only rarely a waste of time.

Before cancer, money was constantly on my mind. Am I making enough? Am I saving enough? How can I make more? After cancer, I realize that while money is awesome (it really is) other things are even more awesome (they really are). I’d rather spend a few more hours sprawled out on the couch with my husband and my dogs than spend those precious hours on constant freelance work.

Before cancer, I spent way too much time worrying. For example, here’s a list of my current worries for today:

  1. How is my mom feeling today?
  2. Is my dad overexerting himself as her caregiver?
  3. I’m getting fat again.
  4. I said/did something I shouldn’t have last week.
  5. I said/did something I shouldn’t have ten years ago.
  6. I might be watching too much Netflix.
  7. I hope people like me.
  8. I hope people think I’m smart.
  9. Was that joke funny or inappropriate?
  10. What if I am worrying too much?

After cancer, I’m trying to worry less. I haven’t mastered it yet. But I’m hoping I’ll get there.

Cancer is teaching me to be kinder to my family and less of a jerk to everyone else, including myself.

The funny thing about cancer is that while it is simultaneously making life hell, it can also make you a better person.

Before Cancer (circa 1987)
“Before Cancer”
Dad, Emily, Me, Mom
(circa 1987)





  1. Knowing you, the joke was most likely both funny and inappropriate. And people think you are smart and love you. As always, thinking of you and your family.

  2. I know how you feel and how illnesses of our family members can affect you and make you do a re-evaluation of things. My late father had a stroke, and while he was lucky to be back on his feet pretty soon and was able to tend for himself, this changed my life dramatically. Money is awesome, like you say, and they make life so much easier, but an extra buck can’t buy you more time with a one you love. That was my most important lesson from that time, and while I still do my best to make my life more comfortable and secure, whenever I have to choose money or people I care, money lose no questions asked.
    Take care

  3. Annie,
    You have made me so proud. I love you very much.
    You have put into words some of my thoughts. Family is just about
    everything valuable in life.
    Grandma H.

  4. I think I may have taken that picture. Hope you got my comment regarding your comment on life and family. Grandma

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