Originally published Aug 2013
Full disclosure time. Had Finding the Joy in Cancer not been written by someone I knew, I probably wouldn’t have read it.
I don’t have cancer. Several of my friends have passed away from cancer and the C word is generally too depressing for me to contemplate. Finding The Joy In Cancer begins not with a guide to battling cancer, but with Mosely’s personal journey. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but suffice to say a white gay man who grew up in the south under the expectation that he would be a sharecropper has some very interesting stories to tell. Knowing him now and getting a glimpse into who he was through various iterations was fascinating. The book has an informal feel to it. It’s conversational, told in a personal narrative interspersed with a series of blog posts and journal entries that were written during the time when Rev. Mosely was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, then later Lymphoma and Renal Carcinoma.
There were definitely some sad parts as you might expect. But rather than being depressing, I found his story both inspiring and encouraging. Rev. Mosely practices what I would call “Now What”. So you find out this terrible thing is happening to you, rather than wallow in it, you have a choice. You get to decide who you will be irrespective of the circumstances. That is your responsibility. Rev. Mosely chose to be joyful. Though he is an optimistic person by nature, the rainbows and sunshine are tempered with just enough realness to be relatable. His whole process really made me think about my life.
“I was always looking outside myself for all the answers. I was always holding someone else to blame for all the things going wrong in my life. Always looking for the reason to hate myself even more and hurt myself for being such a bad person,” he writes coming to crux of one of the many unexpected lessons found in this book. This lesson being personal responsibility.
How often do you feel backed into a corner? Something goes wrong in your life and suddenly you feel like you have no choice at all. I would think getting those kinds of heavy hitting potentially terminal medical diagnoses would be a very limiting experience. Reading the story of how Rev. Mosely chose to celebrate his life even when it would have been so easy to mourn it made me want to think about the choices I make every day. If life hands you lemons, you are supposed to make lemonade but what happens when life hands you cancer? I know very few people who would be able to honestly find anything to squeeze out of that and that is the brilliance of this book.
“You know I would never choose to have cancer…but if it has to happen I am so very happy for the wonderful treasures it has given me. My faith, my willingness to let others in, and the love of my dad in a way I have dreamed all my life.”
I really enjoyed reading this book because it gave me some insight into the man who is the leader of my spiritual community. In addition, it made me reflect on my own life. What secrets am I harboring? What is behind my own mask and how does who I am and how I think manifest itself in my life? Reading this made me want to enter into an honest dialogue with myself.
Rev. Mosely poignantly states, “I was in the process of finding my true self and a path to loving the person inside for who I was.”
I would also like to be an active participant in my own process of self love and discovery (without needing to get cancer to force me into it). I hope you’ll take the time to read this book. It is worth it.
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Reagan Jackson is a writer, artist, YA fiction aficionado, afro-punk, international educator, and community organizer based in Seattle, WA. To read more check out her column in the Seattle Globalist. You can also find her most Wednesday nights at the Rain City Poetry Slam.