Let’s rewind to December 2008. George W Bush was finishing his last month in office, the LA Lakers were on their way to the NBA Finals, and I had just finished my first month of cancer treatment. I, like the economy at the time, wasn’t doing so hot. I had only started my recovery journey and with a long road to go I felt very disheartened.
Like most kids, the holidays were my favorite time of the year. I loved everything about it from the lights to the gifts to the family that comes over. But this particular year was different from all the others. We had a new, uninvited guest - cancer. It was at the forefront of everyone’s minds, hanging like a smoky haze in the house that was impossible to avoid. With every new procedure (and there were many in the first few months), the haze grew thicker.
But despite this, I surprisingly kept finding myself experiencing waves of happiness and gratitude, even through the worst of my procedures. This feeling would always resurge in the smallest moments of my day: sipping a mug of hot chocolate by the fireplace, watching Christmas movies, or baking festive cookies with my cousins. In these small moments, it almost felt like cancer wasn’t a part of our lives.
So as 2008 drew to a close, I made a resolution for the new year: to recognize and appreciate these small moments in life. As a kid, it felt like these moments were the only sources of happiness in my day so I clung on to them ever so tightly. Heading into the new year, I felt so scared and nervous. The haze of cancer made it impossible to envision my future. It felt like any day could be my last. So, in facing death, I was resolved to cherish every single moment of happiness that I could get.
And there were so, so many of them in the year to come. Even with cancer, I constantly found myself happily laughing through moments. It’s strange how much you appreciate the small things in life after experiencing the hard. But what I didn’t realize until I was much older was that these moments resulted from acts of love. While I took time to cherish the moment, I didn’t stop to think about what (or, more specifically, who) led to these moments. It was my mom who made me the mug of hot chocolate and brought a blanket for me to sit by the fireplace. It was my brother who put on Home Alone or How the Grinch Stole Christmas for us to watch together. And it was my Aunt Arlene who managed to corral all my cousins into holiday bakery. Behind all of these happy little moments was someone showing love for me.
New Year's Resolution
That’s why as we head towards New Year’s eve, I am making another New Year Resolution for 2018, this time in two parts:
- Appreciate the happy moments and people behind them more
- Create more happy moments for others
Living with cancer, it becomes so easy to overlook the happy, little moments in life. And if you do, you’ll also forget to cherish the people behind those moments. Cancer is extremely isolating. It removes you from social situations and forces its way into your identity. In the most trying moments of recovery, it feels like you are alone in your fight with cancer. But you are not alone. You have so many people rooting for you from your friends, your family, your doctors, and even strangers like me. We are all with you in this fight. So remember to stay strong, keep pushing, and take note of the little things (and people) that bring you joy in life.
But I also think it’s important to spread this joy. When I was in need, others stepped in to make sure that I was taken care of physically, mentally, and emotionally. Heading into 2018, I want to pay it forward. We so often get caught up in the whirlwind of our own lives. With work, family, social engagements, or the new season of Stranger Things, we quickly forget how significant a small act of kindness can be for someone else. So 2018, I want to strive to create more happy moments for those close to me and for strangers as well. We never know what others are going through so I want to try and brighten someone else’s day.
As we enter a new year, I want to encourage you to make a resolution to inspire, impact, or improve someone else’s life… even if it’s just one person. This could be anything from buying a stranger’s coffee or bringing a sick friend some food or even sending your grandma a greeting card just for fun. We need to remind ourselves that happiness and hope are just one kind act away.
Have a wonderful holiday and a healthy new year!
OURA was born from our experiences with cancer. To learn more about our story, click here: https://ouragami.org/pages/about