An essay by Steven Petrow in today's New York Times caught my eye. The essay was titled "New Cancer Threat Lurks Long After Cure" and dealt with "secondary cancers." These cancers are caused by the radiation and chemotherapy treatments for an initial cancer.
Mr. Petrow contends that cancer survivors go in one of two directions. Some are stalked by anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Others experience higher self-esteem, a greater appreciation for life or a deepened spirituality.
He cites late Senator Frank Church, a cancer survivor who wrote that survival led him to live life more fully:
Life itself is such a chancy proposition that the only way to live is by taking great chances.
Senator Church followed his own advice and became an avid environmentalist and led a life of doing good whenever and wherever he could.
I agree with Senator Church up to a point. I think taking risks in life can lead to more fulfillment and satisfaction. However, I don't think all chances have to be "great." Even taking small risks like speaking to a stranger or doing an unexpected kindness for someone can lead to a more satisfying life.
Another way of putting this is to get outside of your comfort zone. Trying new things and doing things that are unfamiliar often require us to go beyond what is safe and comfortable. Doing this leads to growth and growth seldom happens without risk or difficulty.
Fortunately, I haven't had to deal with cancer. Yet, I think Senator Church's advice is good for those of us who don't have a life-threatening illness.