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Did Cancer Make You More Grateful?

One of my biggest cancer pet peeves is the one about cancer turning you into a new and improved version of your former self. Somehow cancer makes you a better person.

I don’t agree with that premise and have written about it in more depth here.

Another cancer expectation out there is that following your cancer diagnosis, you become more grateful. I’ve thought about this one from time to time and since it’s November, the month of thankfulness and gratitude, I’m wondering about it again.

Often you hear people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or any serious illness, say thereafter they appreciate life more, take things for granted less often and are in general, more grateful.

My first reaction whenever I read or hear this kind of thing is to resist. I’m not sure why this is true, but it is.

I don’t give cancer credit for much other than upheaval and heartache.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, gratitude is the hot topic of the month, or one of them anyway. I think I was a pretty grateful person before cancer, and I feel I am a pretty grateful person these days too.

Am I more grateful now?

Are you?

Well, I am of course, more grateful to be alive than I used to be. Or am I? I am certainly grateful for many people and many things in my life.

But am I more grateful than I was before?

I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. I hope so. I try to be. But not because of cancer.

Gratitude, after all, is an evolving thing is it not?Did cancer make you more grateful?

Gratitude is something we learn, improve upon, or better understand the complexities of over time. Cancer or no cancer, gratitude, like many things, matures over time.

As Brene Brown says in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection:

For years, I subscribed to the notion of an “attitude of gratitude.” I’ve since learned that an attitude is an orientation or a way of thinking and that “having an attitude” doesn’t always translate to a behavior… It  seems that gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works – it’s not alive.

Gratitude is not just a feeling; it’s something which requires doing, and not just a now and then kind of doing, but practicing at least on a somewhat regular basis.

Finding gratitude involves effort.

I like that way of thinking about gratitude.

One of my blogging friends, Lisa Valentine, authors a blog called Habitual Gratitude. You should check it out sometime. I marvel at how Lisa looks for something to be grateful for every single day and then blogs about it. That is real commitment to practicing gratitude and also to the writing process, I might add.

Most people, me included, do not put that kind of effort into finding gratitude. Can finding gratitude become a habit? Lisa thinks so.

No matter where you are in your life and no matter how you feel about these things, gratitude is definitely one of those topics worthy of thinking about from time to time, and not just once a year on the fourth Thursday in November.

Being thankful for the life and all that we have right now in this moment, and feeling gratitude for those we are spending this moment with (even if it’s just yourself), maybe that’s enough.

Maybe it always has been.

I have much to be grateful for today and every day and one of these things is you, Dear Readers.

So, thank you for being out there. Thank you for reading and sharing bits of your life with me. 

I’m grateful. 

If applicable, did cancer make you more grateful?

Do you work at finding gratitude?

What is someone or something you are grateful for today, right now?

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Did #Cancer Make You More Grateful? #Thanksgiving #gratitude #holidays


Saturday 9th of November 2019

Excellent post. You wrote the things that I think about. Glad to know that others feel this way, too.


Monday 11th of November 2019

Bonnie, Thank you. I'm glad it resonated.

Amy Felber

Wednesday 14th of March 2018

I think cancer is a terrible disease and for me it holds no meaning beyond that. I was a good person before cancer, a public servant and a nature lover who already valued the people in my life. I already knew that there were no guarantees in life and I set my intentions to be a helper of others. Frankly, cancer sucks and is godless. How could an omnipresent and omnipotent creator allow countless humans to suffer from this dreadful disease? The only answer I have that I can stomach is that God has nothing to do with cancer. Cancer is a product of human beings polluting Earth. I am grateful that it didn't take cancer to make me grateful. Babies and children die everyday all over the planet. If I survive my diagnosis I will believe it's because I had a lucky response to chemo. I could not accept that it was because of God allowing me more time because I'm more special than other humans. That being said, I hope I'm lucky.


Thursday 15th of March 2018

Amy, Well said. Thank you.

Carol Miele

Thursday 27th of November 2014

I'm not grateful to cancer for anything. That being said, I am grateful everyday that I am alive, wake up, put both feet on the floor, rise up & greet the day. Due to my diagnosis, I have made some changes for the good in my life. But I'm not thankful to cancer for that. I'm being realistic & making changes I wouldn't have to make if cancer hadn't reared it's ugly head. I in thankful for the support I have to help me on this journey (?). I'm also thankful to have met some great people along the way.


Friday 28th of November 2014

Carol, Well said. Cancer didn't make me more grateful. And I am certainly not grateful to cancer for anything either. Am I grateful for people I've met and support I've received since cancer? Of course, but that is not the same thing IMO. Thank you for reading and sharing.

Facing Cancer

Wednesday 26th of November 2014

It certainly changed my view on life - my life, at least. There are so many dark emotions brought on by cancer, I have to focus on the positives to get up, get on and keep living. Gratitude is in there for having this moment, for being with my husband, for taking a pain-free breath. I'm aware of these things because of cancer. Now, that being said, I'm also haunted by a very deep sadness of because of it too, and I do miss that time in my life when this wasn’t a reality. ~Catherine


Friday 28th of November 2014

Catherine, The cancer feelings and emotions are varied and complex indeed. And yes, reality is much changed for some. Thank you for sharing about this. xx

Lisa Valentine

Wednesday 26th of November 2014

I have the evidence I need about the effectiveness of gratitude practice because I have experienced it myself over time. (And earlier on, when I thought I "had it figured out" and didn't need to keep practicing gratitude regularly, I was shown that life went better if I kept it up.) I don't doubt that it helps me in all areas of my health. But there is also a science behind this and growing evidence to support it. One great place to find more reading on this is the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley. Here is a link to just one of the many videos and articles about gratitude practice if you care to take a look:

Where we focus our thoughts is where our thoughts lead us.


Friday 28th of November 2014

Lisa, Thank you for sharing the link. And I think it's worth mentioning that practicing gratitude does not mean 'just staying positive' - or it doesn't mean that to me anyway. Thanks again, Lisa.

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