As an ovarian cancer survivor, time and the significance of holidays have become very important to me. February is a month to focus on love; however, it has other significant components.  Compassion and mindfulness go beyond Valentine’s Day and are so very different from a fabulous box of designer chocolates and luscious red roses.  Human beings all have a choice whether to choose love and compassion toward other people. As a cancer patient, I can say that the upside to cancer is that one gives and receives love without effort. We, as survivors, have a battle to fight and loving is so much easier than not feeling, thus the month of February becomes a different kind of month for us. Cancer is a reality check for all who have the disease. It’s like a house guest that has stayed too long and you need to figure out a way to get that person out. Suddenly, after recuperating from the shock of the diagnosis, I realized that love was at the top of my bucket list and I would give and receive it any way possible. It just felt that good.

While there is pain involved going through the disease process, there is also hopefulness in wanting to bond with other people. People need people and that will never change. The treatment is so overwhelming that you want to act like every day is Valentine’s Day. Cancer makes us listen to others and observe little acts of kindness. Listen with your heart. Really listen. You automatically feel good when you show you care. If we know our time is limited due to disease, we embrace more easily things in life.  When you are kind, you touch another human heart.  My quarterly trips to the cancer center cause me not to take anything in life for granted. While hooked to chemo for six hours a week, I would stare out the huge glass picture window. I would notice how people smiled less and appeared more stressed.   Even on bad days, I try to smile to strangers. February may be a month of love but it’s more important to have a life of love and compassion toward others.

My favorite person at the cancer hospital is a cook named Lala who works in the cafeteria. She offers kindness, friendship and positive vibes to my uncertain life. She goes unnoticed in the scurry of doctors and patients hungrily waiting to be served food. I watch her refilling bowls, running with bins of dirty plates and wiping down tables. You can bet she has no expectations about Valentine’s Day, yet, I feel our hugs are much more important that flowers and candy. While I struggled with uncertainty about my future, Lala was always in the kitchen with her apron on and it felt safe whenever I located her.  Love and compassion for others is such a strong connection while hugging became my favorite hobby.

Aside from a day to express romance, Valentine’s Day can mean a day to acknowledge all types of people. Make it a holiday full of diversity and encourage friendships with all ages, genders and races.  If you walk into any business office on that day, you’ll see women or men leave with arms full at the end of the day with candy, flowers and sometimes a stuffed animal bigger than a human. These “things” don’t always come with love for some, whereas a hug or a kind question means so much more.

“Kindness” appears to be a buzzword for 2018. A random act of kindness is powerful ammunition and very contagious. People never forget if you make them feel good, that recipe never changes. For some bizarre reason, random acts of kindness come easily for those with a disease. Maybe it’s because we don’t know when our time is up and we want to make the most out of human interaction. Who knows what happens when we go to our celestial transformation?  Wearing my turbans while bald taught me that people notice and care. My turbans were like a magnet to strangers and what a feeling it was to have caring come from someone I didn’t even know. Gestures are so touching and make one pause.  While shopping one day, a woman noticed me wearing my turban due to baldness. She grabbed my hands and began to offer prayers. While I may not understand the prayers, I so loved this unexpected gesture. It made me feel wanted and gave me courage.

Lastly, I don’t want to end this article until I give a shout-out to giving kindness to our furry friends. Please consider them special even if you are not an animal lover. I am the mother of a Catholic cat named Christine and a Jewish dog named Bella. I am at my kindest and most loving during moments with them.  It’s cheaper than therapy. They adore you without question.

They actually are the embodiment of everything good in this world and without them; my cancer would be a greater challenge.

 

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Cindy Small
Cindy Small arrived in N. Alabama following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A native of New Orleans, she graduated from Tulane University with an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Masters in Historic Preservation Studies. She spends her spare time writing a weekly “Spotlight” column for The Decatur Daily as well as reading her non-fiction short stories on NPR. Published in various literary journals, her writings are always humorous added with a speck of arsenic.