Barbara Tako has been a breast cancer survivor since 2010 and a melanoma survivor since 2014. Beginning in 1998, she has been a professional seminar leader, speaker, and published writer on clutter clearing and home organizing. She is also the author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll Get You Through This. Barbara lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children, and dogs.
For me, breast cancer and melanoma weren’t battles that make me some sort of courageous warrior princess. I am not a warrior or a soldier. Cancer wasn’t a prize or special award or reward in the form of pink sweatshirts, pins, or ribbons. Cancer wasn’t a club that conferred honors and benefits to me, a survivor.
Cancer is a disease. That said, living with cancer does give survivors super spidey cancer powers—tongue in cheek but still true. What I am trying to suggest is that, as cancer survivors, we can choose to try to turn all the negatives of a cancer diagnosis, into as many positives as we can.
What are these powers, you ask? Here are the “powers” I have discovered so far. (I still give this ongoing list permission to continue to grow and develop.) Your list might be different.
Spidey Vision: Cancer helps us recognize when others need help and makes us more willing and able to reach out to them.
Once you have been through something as life-changing as cancer, I think you become more aware of other peoples’ struggles, especially if they receive a cancer diagnosis too. I think it also makes you more willing to leap in and try to help rather than hang back from shyness or uncertainty. You personally know how comforting and helpful it was when people reached out to you, and you may want to try to return that favor to others down the road.
Spidey Hearing: Cancer makes us better listeners.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted to be heard, really heard, as I tried to process my diagnosis. I was really upset and tearful. I didn’t expect friends and family to solve my problems. There is no quick fix with cancer. People with cancer want to be heard. After you have cancer, I think you become a better listener yourself.
Spidey Connectedness: Cancer can enhance alertness to and appreciation of nature.
Nature helps many of us. Spending a few minutes outside, taking a walk, or even looking out a window for a bit connects us to life and to the universe. Survivors know and choose to use this connectedness with nature as needed. Focusing on nature can help slow down all the anxious and worried thoughts bouncing around in our heads. It can provide seconds, maybe even minutes, of peace and distraction.
Spidey Alertness: Cancer increases awareness of and appreciation for small moments of joy.
This means the little moments of joy are seized and appreciated—the sun popping through the clouds, a child’s hug, a moment of calm. Those beautiful, tiny moments don’t escape us any more, or at least, not as much as they did before being diagnosed.
Spidey Appreciation: Cancer enhances our appreciation for life.
In short, we don’t take life for granted now. We live with uncertainty for the rest of our lives, and to spin it more positively, we try to appreciate, enjoy, and be grateful for each day as it comes.
I suspect everyone’s spidey powers are unique. For me, the important thing is to try to turn something bad, like cancer, into something good, like hope and mastering these super spidey cancer powers.
Can you do this too? I encourage you to try it. What do your new powers look like?