This past weekend I was so very, very happy to be alive.
My daughter got married to a wonderful young man I am now proud to call my son-in-law. My extended family and friends gathered for a fantastic celebration with eating, dancing, laughter, and deep joy in being together. All aspects of the weekend were magical: the way the bride and groom looked at each other, the perfect weather, one fantastic gathering after another, and my ability to get through my toast to the bride and groom at the wedding reception without turning into a sobbing mess (tears came later, which was just fine). It was, no doubt, one of the highlights of my life, and one I will cherish forever.
Cancer was also there. Neither of my parents saw their oldest granddaughter get married – both died of cancer many years ago. An aunt and uncle who have dealt with cancer were able to attend. So did my little sister who is in the middle of a course of chemotherapy and has no hair. She did not let cancer interfere with her enthusiasm and joined us in all aspects of the celebration. She looked fantastic in a wig that, dare I say, looked at least as good as her natural hair (sorry, sis …).
When considering why there is cancer in the world and why it has caused so much suffering for my family and so many others, I think about how the process that results in cancer is also the process that led to our being here and our ability to bask in the joy of life.
More specifically, mutations happen in the cells in our bodies all the time. The vast majority of these mutations have minimal impact. On occasion, a mutation occurs that results in cancer. Even rarer is a beneficial mutation. The science of evolution has demonstrated that beneficial mutations may be extremely rare, but they do occur and can lead to organisms that are more complex and better able to survive and reproduce. Hence, the emergence of human beings.
Life and cancer … Cancer and life … Without mutations there would be no cancer, but there also would be no evolution, and without evolution I would not have been here to celebrate with my loved ones. Does this mean we should “celebrate cancer?” I don’t think so. But “celebrate despite cancer?” Absolutely!