Cancer Made Me Appreciate the Small Things in Life

There’s a flip side to the trauma of cancer — a better appreciation of the small things in everyday life.

With cancer, the diagnosis is shocking, the treatments are draining and the prognosis is worrisome. Stress may dominate our days and fear haunt our nights. Hope may appear elusive as a “new-normal” takes center stage.

Cancer festers in body and soul, robbing us of our peace of mind and clouding our future.

But there’s a flip side. Cancer may also bring life into sharper focus, a positive side effect of the devastating disease. Quiet, gentle moments may rest upon us, bringing distraction, relief and joy.

Living with cancer for eight years has taught me to relish those gentle moments. For instance:


My wife and I live in a secluded neighborhood where a small, wooded area and creek serve as home to many bird species. That means we are the lucky beneficiaries of many exquisite songs.

During the predawn hours, I hear their beautiful sounds through my bedroom window, a great way to begin every day.

Once, a robin’s nest was built just outside our apartment door. I marveled at how hard the mother worked to feed her babies and witnessed them growing plump and healthy and finally taking those few unsteady steps before the first flight.

During the pandemic’s first winter, a mockingbird nested in a shrub near our residence, rent free. Surprisingly, its endless variety of songs were muted by those cold weather months, replaced by a harsh sounding squawk. But, come spring, I was rewarded with a return of its remarkable melody.


We live in an adult apartment community where children are seen only when they visit their grandparents or to stay with their parents during weekend visits. But coming from a subdivision on the street behind our complex, children’s laughter is abundant as they splash happily in an inground pool.

Nearly every day in the summer, extending from late morning to dusk, the sounds bring smiles to my lips.

Classical Music

Starting in the 1990s with Mozart and Vivaldi (“The Four Seasons”) I have been enthralled with classical music. It has always been a balm for my soul, but since cancer arrived in my life, it has become a form of escape.

Nightly, I tune in to classical music stations in Vienna and Oslo as well as the USA, listening to new composers. I watch them later on YouTube


I like to socialize with neighbors, like the woman who walks her Labrador puppy named “Cinnamon.” I find myself often exclaiming to her, “You must be feeding him well because he’s growing up so fast!”

Or, I might see neighbor who suffered a stroke spends endless hours holed up in his apartment when his girlfriend is at work. I know that he enjoys seeing me wave at him or stop for a quick chat.

Routines are important when you’re caught in a cancer rut, and no day would be complete without a neighborly encounter.

Final Thoughts

I truly enjoy these small outings and rarely stare at the four walls while my wife is at work. I’ve learned to stay busy yet not in a hectic way, but rather at a slow pace where I can notice nature, listen to the children’s laughter and classical music, and enjoy casual meetups with neighbors.

Cancer will always cause worry, stress and tears, but as the years pass, I realize there is more to life than that.