Not a Gift to some

Janice H | Family Member |

How can getting Cancer be considered a gift? Aren’t gifts something to be treasured? Don’t they make the recipient and those around him happy? Well, yes. And so does Cancer. Sort of.

My husband died from bladder cancer at the age of 53. It was a wrenching experience for my close knit family and I went into widowhood kicking and screaming. Yet, that last year of his life holds some of my most precious memories.

Joe was a very strong and open individual who believed that in spite of his death sentence, he would exemplify his love for his family and friends during those precious last months. Even after he stopped chemo because it wasn’t working any more, he left us “gifts.” Even after he lost all of his hair, became skeletal and looked more like an 83 year old man than a 53 year old one (a hospice nurse thought he was my father instead of my husband), he gave us “gifts”. One of the best of these gifts, was agreeing to marry me again on my birthday. This renewal of our vows after 30 years of marriage took place two weeks before he died. Not only did he silently participate through his pain, but he allowed our son to film the entire ceremony as he put on a brave face.

My children (24 and 27 at the time) wrote beautiful letters to their father on his last Father’s Day, telling him what he meant to their lives. Again, he let us film this experience. That video is shaky and often out of focus as it was difficult to stop shaking as we cried, but we consider it a gift.

Cancer a gift? Some think not. But for me, having the opportunity to give and receive unconditional love cannot be taken for granted. Some people die suddenly without warning and never get to say good-bye or tell their family those three precious words “I love you.” My husband gave us a year of those three words and we’ll cherish that gift forever.


  1. When I hear the word gift I think of the silver linings of cancer. The kind doctors, nurses, technicians and fellow cancer patients I have met along the way. The fact in Boston we have easy access to amazing care at amazing hospitals and how lucky that makes this community. Simple kindness from strangers and the feeling of gratitude for it. A parking attendant on the day of my surgery greeting me with a smile and calm manner; helping me find my way on a nervous day. I think the biggest gift cancer has given me is getting unstuck. Cancer has given me a chance to be smart enough to stop wasting time. To make the things that are important to me happen now. It gives me a sense of urgency that I really needed to get unstuck in different aspects of my life. I feel it has helped me start growing again as a person. It has helped me see people and situations with a new clarity. Cancer has helped me not take for granted my health or a day when I feel good. It has made me start listening to my body and be kinder to myself. I no longer feel guilty taking time to exercise.. It has made me even more aware with every interaction I have
    the type of impact I am having on someone else. It’s helped me start to recapture the sense of joy and happiness that I had lost along the way. Hearing that I had cancer based on my family history was my worst fear come true. Now I know even after my worst fear come true I’m still standing. I’m still living, breathing and enjoying the people I care about the most. It has given me the knowledge I can handle this and more. Cancers gift to me is giving me a chance to be smart and put into place the things that are important for my family. A chance when it is my time to be able to go without regret. A gift that would be priceless.

    M | | 5:58am

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