14 Things I’ve Learned from Cancer

As I look back over the thirty-seven years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I realize I have learned many things. What learnings are now ingrained in me? I would love to share them with you.

  1. Fear, anger and depression are normal responses to a serious disease.
  2. There is solace and validation in sharing with peers.
  3. Grieving is healthy because it frees up your energy to get on with your life. But grief comes in layers, and each layer must be worked through or it goes underground and emerges in undesirable ways.
  4. Facing the possibility of death means losing your feeling of invulnerability. It is much like losing the innocence of childhood.
  5. Facing reality can enhance the good times, change your perspective and establish your priorities. You become able to ask the question"If not now, when?"
  6. The social hypocrisy most of us indulge in from time to time seems superfluous.
  7. We need to feel in control again, even if we know it is an illusion in the grand scheme of things.
  8. We need to feel that we can take charge of our own bodies, be informed medical consumers and participate in decisions regarding our health. An uninformed choice is not a real choice.
  9. We are more alike than different and we need to appreciate and respect our differences.
  10. There is a difference between enlightened self-interest and selfishness.
  11. Living with cancer is difficult, but it is possible. Having cancer has taught what was always true, that life is uncertain.
  12. There are many kinds of courage, and though we cannot absorb courage from others, we can be inspired by it.
  13. Each of us is a person of value, and when we respect our own essential humanity, we can bring that respect to others.
  14. We can join hands with health care professionals to fight our common enemies, ignorance and disease.


Lee Miller

Lee is 37 year breast cancer survivor and a founding member of SHARE.