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I Dreamed a Dream

December 24, 2012

With the long-awaited release of the new Les Miserables movie on Christmas day, I’ve had this musical on my mind for nearly two months. The songs run through my head nonstop, a constant soundtrack to my daily life. No song has come up more often than “I Dreamed a Dream,” and hearing this steady stream of beautiful but tragic lyrics makes it difficult to resist the temptation to identify with some of them.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by

When hope was high and life worth living

I dreamed that love would never die

I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then I was young and unafraid

And dreams were made and used and wasted

There was no ransom to be paid

No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night

With their voices soft as thunder

As they tear your hope apart

As they turn your dream to shame


I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I’m living

So different now from what it seemed

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed. 

I certainly consider myself fortunate that my life is not generally a “hell” – since my diagnosis in March 2011, I have been able to carry on with much of my normal routine. That said, small constant reminders that I am not whole sometimes eat at my spirit.

I tend to share the funny side of my cancer, or throw lighthearted remarks into serious topics to keep the tone upbeat. People often tell me I make it look easy. It’s not.

One of my nurses worried out loud a few months ago that I’m holding it all in or putting on a front. Of course I’m scared. And sometimes I’m in pain. But I choose not to dwell on the negative “what ifs.” I can’t always keep my mind away from them – sometimes I make plans in my head for little things I want to do a few months or a year or even years from now. And then I suddenly wonder whether I’ll be able to carry them out. Will I be weak? Sick? Will I still be here?

I hope so – and that’s the truth, though maybe not the whole truth. My positive attitude is genuine – but when I’m not feeling it, I’m less likely to let it show. If I’m feeling down, it doesn’t do me any good to upset everyone else.

I’ve heard people say that they are thankful for their cancer, that it’s taught them things about life and happiness and friendship. I am not grateful. I’d give it back in an instant if I could. But reality doesn’t work that way, so I soldier on with a smile on my face as often as possible.

My dream has changed over the past year and a half, but it has not been killed. I am still young, but not unafraid. And still I dream.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2012 3:46 pm

    Thanks for keepin’ it real, as I’ve often wondered where that side was.

    • December 28, 2012 12:41 pm

      Always, Hippy! As I said, it’s not a false positive – I just usually choose not to show the other side.

  2. Katie permalink
    December 25, 2012 1:13 pm

    that was really nice–you have a great attitude and i hope it never changes. merry christmas.

  3. December 26, 2012 5:22 pm

    Beautifully put. Dreaming despite fear is a very good thing. And I think it helps in moving forward – recreating life despite cancer. What gorgeous lyrics you quoted. It has the song swimming through my head. ~Catherine

  4. scooter with first descents permalink
    December 27, 2012 11:43 am

    Yings, your honesty, frankness, and “splayed open” writing are a testament to the courage and strength that you have. Thanks for sharing. -scooter

  5. December 27, 2012 1:11 pm

    beautifully written…so moving. i wish you love, light and good energy for the moments ahead.

  6. Googley permalink
    December 27, 2012 2:04 pm

    Ying, you are such a graceful woman. I only hope to achieve such courage and strength over time. All of my love and healing energy and always in our thoughts. much love, googley.

  7. Criquette permalink
    December 28, 2012 12:38 pm

    Hey Yings! Wacky and I just saw Les Mis and we both bawled like babies – love this particular song! I am in total agreement with you about not being grateful for cancer – I usually hear, “…the gift of cancer” and I think it is complete rubbish although I respect the comment if coming from someone with cancer. It isn’t the cancer that is a gift but how one with cancer deals with it; by their attitude, their internal fortitude, their friends, their ability to embrace and acknowledge the kindness of others, their choice on how to live their lives and their faith – those are true gifts. You, sweet girl, have been blessed with these gifts and your beauty and grace will always rise above any challenges that comes your way. Thank you for sharing your words and your heart – beautiful! Big hugs to you! Criquette

  8. Kathryn permalink
    December 30, 2012 8:32 pm

    I agree cancer is not a gift – well, unless you consider it a gift that keeps on giving, like herpes… I am living with my second primary cancer and don’t see either as a gift. I have a positive attitude most of the time, but unlike you, I don’t work to hide it on my rough days. But I am home, usually alone, at the worst times, so other than my writing, people don’t see it. Only my immediate family has seen me when I am not positive. I always regroup and move forward. Pissing & moaning isn’t going to accomplish anything I need to survive. I prefer to deal with it more like you.

  9. January 3, 2013 10:19 pm

    I’m not a first hand survivor but I’ve experienced this disease in all it’s glory first hand. I know you’ve heard “keep your head up”, “think positively”, “God is a healer”. The one thing I find true is that faith is the resounding common denominator in this all. Am I saying faith to be healed, no…I am saying faith in the healer. Whatever way He choses to heal, has to be ok with the survivor. You say survivor? If you’re not dead yet, you’re a survivor. I had to accept that fact, “whatever way He chooses” because He sees around the corner; I only see to the corner. i dont suffer this and I have other chronic diseases however; I have to get checked every two years because my father was diagnosed at 33 and died at 44: i understand! I will pray you total healing but most of all, His will be done.

  10. milli permalink
    January 4, 2013 11:05 pm

    I don’t mind if I keep saying it…. you ll be published one day 😉

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