Shit, I Was Supposed To Have Learned Something From Having Cancer, Wasn’t I?

Scott Ippolito

When I was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago, I was terrified. For over a year, I lived with the fear that death was just around the corner, that I might not be there for my family anymore, that I might never see my kids get married and have kids of their own. But after countless treatment sessions and the hard work of my doctors, last week I was finally given a clean bill of health. And now I’m back to my normal, everyday routine and…oh…oh, wait. Shit.

I was supposed to have some profound realization from surviving cancer, wasn’t I?


Now that I think about it, facing down a life-threatening illness like cancer is definitely the kind of thing a person is supposed to emerge from with some important lesson or other. Jeez, it’s so obvious in hindsight. I have the perfect opportunity, and what do I do with it? I go and completely fuck it up. Now the moment has passed, and I didn’t take away even a single little moral, let alone a whole life philosophy or set of revelations.

God, I’m such a dipshit.

I’ve got nothing. I literally have zero to impart. Boy, that’s embarrassing.

To be fair, it’s not like I didn’t have a lot on my plate dealing with the day-to-day of the whole cancer thing for a while there. Between the twice-weekly hospital visits, my severe fatigue, and having to juggle a dozen different prescriptions, there was plenty going on without having to worry about experiencing some kind of life-altering epiphany.


Still, though, you’d think I would’ve had time in there somewhere to experience at least one jolt of insight about determination or the indestructibility of the human spirit or whatever. After all, I spent enough time just sitting there hooked up to IV drips and lying motionless in MRI machines with nothing else to do. On at least one of those occasions, something profound should have occurred to me, right?

But nope, I’ve got nothing. I literally have zero to impart. Boy, that’s embarrassing.


I might not feel so bad if none of my family members had learned anything from my cancer either, but my wife has definitely mentioned on multiple occasions how the fear of losing a loved one helped her put other problems in perspective and gave her a greater appreciation for the present moment. Even my kids have said once or twice how watching a parent struggle with cancer taught them to be more sympathetic to the hardships of others.

Maybe that’s it? Something about family? That definitely feels like it should fit in there somewhere, but I’m not quite sure how. I certainly love my family a lot, but I loved them before I had cancer too, so that probably doesn’t really count.


Wait, I almost had it for a second. What was it? Something about hope, I think? Fuck it, never mind.

I’m sort of at a loss here. I guess I could try reading somebody else’s cancer memoir to see if that jumpstarts some kind of personal discovery. But then that seems like I’d just be stealing another person’s revelation. In fact, it might make me feel even worse about the fact that I don’t have any original cancer-derived wisdom to share with the world.


Okay, okay, how about this? Maybe my lesson is that cancer seems really bad at first, but then it goes away. No, that’s not right either. Jesus, this is a lot harder than people make it seem.

Oh, well, even if I don’t come up with anything, it’s not the end of the world. My doctor says there’s at least a 60 percent chance I’ll get another shot at this.


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