My web site is devoted to medical and treatment information about this rare cancer. My blog is devoted to sharing what has been the more difficult part of the journey for me, the emotional and spiritual road I've traveled as a rare cancer survivor.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Purpose in Pain

Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I guess I spend a lot of time thinking and contemplating and reading. Maybe because I live in the cancer community, a place where pain and heartache and struggle reign. I think about it a lot.

After I had survived longer than I was expected to, I became obsessed with purpose. If I had survived against all odds, I felt I must be here for a reason, and I was obsessed with learning why I had survived, what my purpose was here. I thought if I'd survived when I wasn't supposed to, it must be for a reason. I HAD to understand my life purpose, I had to justify my survival. I had to be worthy.

I read lots of books about purpose. One was "What Color is Your Parachute", written Richard N. Bolles, a former Episcopal clergyman. What intrigued me most about the book was a single chapter, which was later published in a single small book "How to Find Your Mission in Life". In that chapter and book, he contemplates that maybe before we were born, our eternal soul existed and gave permission for us to be on this earth and to deal with what we would suffer here, knowing that it was for a limited time only. What if we, from the other side, gave our permission to experience the events and pain we would suffer here, knowing it would serve an ultimate and greater purpose? Knowing that we had a mission and knowing that we would eventually come home to where things were right and just, where we would later be whole again.

That gave me a sort of peace. Maybe we are all interconnected and our trials in the end are for a greater good. One daughter has a deaf cousin. She learned sign language to communicate with her. That same cousin had a very disabled brother who died at age 4 after suffering a life of disability..he was never able to communicate, eat, even breathe well. In the end she is pursuing a career in special education and works for a group home housing many disabled adults with severe autism. Her heart is for the handicapped. She has a gift for dealing with the severely disabled. She worked with the disabled at her high school, and taught sign language to some who were mute, giving them the first chance they'd ever had to communicate with others. Maybe dealing with two disabled cousins gave her the ability to profoundly affect the lives of many who are disabled. Maybe the disability of her two cousins will in the end help her help hundreds of diabled kids. So maybe from her cousin's pain there was a greater good.

I read once of a very educated and intelligent man who gave up his career and spent years working with the very disabled. Though they could not communicate with him, he said they taught him more than he had ever learned before...about appreciating health and wholeness, about unconditional love.

A young adult I consider my "adopted son" was profoundly affected by the accidental death of his father at a young age...but he has become gifted from that experience in the way he is able to support and relate to others.

Maybe in the end all of our suffering is for a greater good. Maybe kids who lose parents to cancer will in the end be able to help others in a way no one else can. The child of one patient I know who had appendix cancer in the end as a teen formed her own non-profit to raise money for cancer research.

Maybe the effect of our pain on just one other person will cause that person to positively influence hundreds of other. Maybe our pain is interconnected in a way that achieves a greater goal, even if we can't know it from our perspective here and now.

Maybe even small events in our lives cause a ripple effect that change the world. Maybe there is a bigger picture we don't understand..yet. But maybe we will one day


Dan said...

thoughtful, contemplative. nice writing. i always get something out of your posts. thanks.

Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Carolyn, Excellent post for the New Year. I have selected it for this week's Guest Post at I have included two links to your site as well as a link to the original post. You should expect top see an increase of traffic to your site. A guest post also means that you will be added to the "Honor Roll for Excellence in Cancer Writing" on the website, as well as the Honor Roll designation on the blogroll, Cancer Blogs. Please consider adding Being Cancer to your own links list. Take care and keep up the great writing, Dennis

Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN said...

Thanks so much, Dennis. I truly appreciate the honors you have bestowed on me. I am privileged to be a Guest Post on your site and to be on your "Honor Roll". It means a lot to me too that we share connections...being both cancer survivors and nurses in the cancer community. I so admire what you have done to use your own experiences for a greater good.

I will add your site to my links!

Thanks again,

Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN said...

Thanks again, Dan for your means a lot to me.


Janine said...

What a beautiful post! Just what I needed as I try and find meaning with my new survivor and previvor status.

Obsessedwithlife said...

Loved your post! Could totally relate...

Rachel 3x young adult cancer survivor

Amanda said...

As I posted over on Being Cancer, this post was beautiful. We will understand one day. I really believe that.

BbPlayer said...

Carolyn, I see your purpose is tied directly to sharing your cancer experience in a thoughtful and helpful manner. Without your website I would be in the final stages of dieing from my appendix cancer. Because of your site I have the chance to be cancer free and am working my way through post-op recovery in the comfort of my own home. From my perspective there is no greater than having helped a fellow human being to have a longer and healthier life.

Thank you


WhiteStone said...

As a one-year survivor of ovarian cancer I, too, struggle with the meaning of pain and suffering. I'm a life-long Christian and have had to look closely at my faith and my understanding of the role God plays in my life. Tears in the dark of the night. And prayers. Now I am reading "How Long, Oh Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil" by D A Carson and am gratified that my thinking falls in line with so much of what he says in his book.

The thought is similar to your post...we are here for a purpose. And even my cancer is part of that purpose.

Glad I've found your blog.

Ashley Williams said...

Nice blog!!! And good thought too!! I love the blog!!