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An Epiphany After a Serious Medical Issue

Updated on November 5, 2017
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years.


I reconnected with a distant relative recently. I had not seen her in about five years. I called her just to catch up and found out she came down with cancer four years ago. She told me about her experience with surgery and chemo treatments. It changed her perspective on life. It was an inspiring story and I believe we can all learn from it.

- Nov. 2017


This relative of my is about my age. She just turned 65 this year. She went through a terrible bout of cancer which took her four years to recover from. Right now, she is in remission and doing physical therapy to rebuild her muscle strength. She is a stronger person spiritually now than before. She is a practicing Buddhist all her life. This experience had an impact on her and made her realize the most important thing in life.

It is a philosophical question. Why do we have a hard time learn from other people's experiences? Logically, we are all given basic intelligence. We as humans have similar experiences and shared likes and dislikes. It should be easy for us to accept knowledge gained from experience. It should also make sense to listen to our elders who have been through more living.

Yet, that is not the common wisdom. We tend to dismiss elders and use the excuse that it was a different time. We also tend to separate our lives from others. What happens to others does not apply to us. When we are not personally affected, we minimize or deny the possibility it could happen to us.

The reality is we are all in the same boat. I heard a sermon just the other day and it makes the claim all we need to learn is from Noah's Ark. The last one is so apropos.

11. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.

Her Story...

She told me all her life she was a worrier. She worry about her son, her job, her marriage... She spent a lot of energy worrying over things that she had little control over. She had planned to work and save and retire in her 60s and travel the world. All her plans fell apart when she came down with breast cancer. It had spread to her legs when she discovered it. This resulted in numerous operations and chemo therapy which forced her to stay in bed for a long period. She could not walk and was weak and debilitated.

Now she is in remission and getting some strength back and learning to walk again. She told me she is in a better mental state now. She learned to appreciated the simple things in life. She is happier and at peace. Even though her cancer was an ordeal, it can be said, it was a blessing as well. It made her realize the most important thing in life.

The Lesson

It occured to me her story is a common experience. Many people have gone through similar situations. Some not so lucky as to survive cancer. Yet, most of us, live our lives as if these things just can't happen to us. We fall into the daily trappings and become agitated over the smallest obstacles. We fail to live up to the simple ideal of the Serenity Prayer.

The question is why? Why, with all the intellect and education and life experiences, do we not learn the lesson of the past? the wisdom of all ages?


I don't know the answer. I can only observe and comment on what I see. I can also wonder what would happen if all people behave as my relative did post her tragic experience. People will be happier and more satisfied with what they have instead of agonize over what others have.

© 2017 Jack Lee


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