Rose With Thorns

Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses. — Alphonse Karr

As odd as it may seem, there have been plenty of times over the past 20+ years that I have said having cancer was a blessing. Did I want cancer? Absolutely not; however, I realized I had two choices. I could either be miserable and angry about it the rest of my life, or I could look at it in a totally different light — as a blessing!

Cancer is not a choice. Cancer does not discriminate. When I was initially diagnosed 20+ years ago, it certainly did not seem like a blessing. My emotions when I was initially diagnosed were many and very intense — disbelief, anger, depression, fear of the unknown, sadness and loneliness just to name a few — it was absolutely overwhelming. I was scared. I had a large mediastinal mass in my chest and I wanted it gone! The mass was so large that my heart was barely visible on a chest x-ray.

Suddenly I was learning medical terminology (besides the "big C") I didn't think I would ever have to know, let alone fully understand. I wondered if I was going to live. I questioned my mortality. I then realized I was blessed that the mass was found when it was.

If you're diagnosed with a secondary cancer, as I was, there is even more medical terminology to learn! I had a different team of doctors, except for my oncologist, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being diagnosed the second time, I went through the emotional roller coaster, but was suddenly in "fight mode." It was Jenn vs. Cancer, and I was ready to win.

When I had cancer the first time, I had chemotherapy and radiation. This time my treatment involved surgeries, so I was not clear as to what to expect, but I was ready. I was optimistic. I remember making my family and loved ones laugh almost every time I was taken to the operating room. That still puts a smile on my face. I was blessed to have cancer … again.

Cancer can turn your life upside down. The treatment and recovery can be painful and long. The unexpected may occur. Side effects may be brief or long-term. What I expected to be a tough six months with my secondary cancer, breast cancer, ended up being a tough almost two years due to infections and unexpected surgeries. Was cancer still a blessing? Absolutely!

Cancer touched my life at the tender age of 23, as well as 19 years later. It was not a curse. It made me look at life with such a fresh perspective. It gave me a heart of gratitude for this life I am so blessed to live and love. I realize what a gift life is and how fragile it can be. I don't take life too seriously. I relish laughter with loved ones, am very passionate (sometimes to a fault) and am simply very, very happy! Cancer taught me to appreciate this life more than I ever could have imagined.

Cancer was a blessing in its own way, and for that I have a heart of gratitude!

Share Your Thoughts

Have you found blessings in your cancer diagnosis? Have you been able to find a rose among thorns? Share your thoughts below.

About the Author

Jennifer Pichelman was born in Racine, Wis. She graduated from Concordia University Wisconsin with an undergraduate degree in business management and communication. She recently celebrated 25 years with a manufacturing company in Racine and currently works in marketing. Jennifer was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1994 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. Due to the radiation to her chest, Jennifer was told she had an increased risk of breast cancer, which her oncologist diligently screened for with mammograms and breast MRI's. She remained cancer free until December of 2012, when she was diagnosed with a secondary cancer, breast cancer. When a small mass was discovered after a mammogram, deep down Jennifer knew she had breast cancer. After biopsy results came back, Jennifer was formally diagnosed on Dec. 28, 2012 -- 3 days after Christmas.

Kimberly Yoghourtjian

Dear Jennifer,
Thank you for your story. My husband was diagnosed in 2012 with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant. He is now in remission. We also have been blessed by cancer. It has not been easy, and as you say, "Your life is turned upside down", but cancer has taught us many things. We appreciate life and the little things mean the most. We were blessed with friends and family who stood by us, laughed with us, prayed for us and generally loved on us. We will be forever grateful for their support. God has looked out for us every step of the way. He knew what was coming, and He never left us or failed us. It is through all His help and blessings that we are where we are today, and we give Him the glory for it all. He is so good. Yes He is, even in the midst of hardship; we can more fully say that He loves us so much. He does all things for good to those that love Him. And we love because He first loved us.