Finding the “Can” in Cancer

Megan Noonan Sailing

Megan Noonan took her mother’s challenging diagnosis and turned it into a chance to hope. Here’s her inspiring story, in her own words.

Dear Life is Good,

In January 2017, Mom was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Brain Tumor (GBM). It’s the same cancer John McCain was recently diagnosed with, and the aggressive brain cancer that Joe Biden’s son passed away from. As our family has come to live with this “new normal,” I found myself distraught. It simply doesn’t seem fair to have to face this type of illness. I guess you never really expect to confront a diagnosis that puts a timeline on a loved one’s life, but it happens. One thing is for certain: It makes you want to live and appreciate that, even in bad times, life is good.

Over these last few months, I found myself running into a few situations where I have been forced to turn the way I’m thinking around. Even my pool guy and I had a 45-minute conversation about how to look at life. You think your parents will be around forever, so it took me some time to adjust from being a kid to a caretaker overnight. I’d play the messages on repeat to tell myself to get up, go run, go to work, take care of your son, take care of your mom, be strong, stop crying, be grateful, go run again, take care of that list of things you are putting off, and seriously, stop f@&king crying.

I’ve continued to turn this situation around to look for the positive, and I found it one day while reading a New York Times article written by a woman at the final stages of her life. Addressing her husband, she wrote, “No wonder the words ‘cancel’ and ‘cancer’ go so well together.” Although I understand this analogy more then I’d like, as do many others who have lost a loved one to cancer, I wondered if there could be a way to turn this around while we’re living it.

So, I looked at this word, “cancer,” and though about how to turn something so terrible into something positive. I meditated on the word and I noticed if you just cross off the end, you’re left with the word can.

I sat with a dear friend and we wound up asking each other, “What is your can?” We learned that the most common phrases people want to hear at this stage are that you can hope, you can help those in need, and you can heal.

Here’s to the hope that one day we can find a cure for cancer — for everyone.

What’s your can?

With much love and gratitude,