The Midnight Library: What Would You Do Differently?

Last updated: May 2022

I recently read the fiction book, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. The main character, thirty-five-year-old Nora, has become highly depressed. The poor lady carries a lot of guilt. What if she hadn't called off her wedding?  Why didn't she go on that coffee date with her neighbor? She even feels guilty because her cat died. 

In the book, because of a near-death experience, Nora can live her life in different ways. In one life, Nora is a rock star dating a movie star. In another life, she works at an animal shelter. Sometimes she will be married with children; then, in another life, she will be single.

Nora learns there is no such thing as a perfect life.  She is not responsible for her brother's unhappiness. Her life is good, and she will continue to do good things.

A different life?

What do you think your alternative life would resemble? Would you have a different career? If you had another job, would you be healthier? Would you still have blood cancer, and if so, would your medical team discover it sooner? How would your treatment plan differ?

What caused my blood cancer?

Late at night, does your mind sometimes wonder about the cause of your cancer? For example, I have wondered if my environment caused my blood cancer. It's almost spooky; I can name three teachers assigned to the same classroom over fifteen years who have been diagnosed with cancer. Was there something in that room that caused it?  Probably not, because we each have a different kind.

Why me?

Who gets blood cancer? I have always heard that too much stress is hard on your body. Did the tension I carried in my life cause my disease? If I hadn't stressed about my students' test scores and progress, would cancer have come?

My blood cancer is myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), 5 q deletion.  MDS affects the bone marrow and often shows up later in life, so I don't believe what I did or didn't do induced my disease.  (I was 61 at the time of my diagnosis.) I am thankful that my diagnosis came after I retired and was still in the low-risk category.

We are not alone.

According to the World Health Organization, people diagnosed with cancer climbed from 10 million in 2000 to 19.3  million in 2020. So, a lot changed in two decades. But, I keep reminding myself: People live longer these days, and doctors discover cancer sooner than in previous years, which is excellent news.

I have never believed that God wanted to punish me with cancer. Children get cancer and even babies. I don't think God conducts His business this way. Matthew 5:45 tells us, "It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous."

Fellow blood cancer advocates, I'm sure you, too, wish you didn't have cancer. Keep sharing. Sometimes just reading about someone's similar experience helps.

I love the story of Esther in the Bible.  Her cousin, Mordecai, says, "Perhaps you have come to your position for such a time as this?" Read the story to learn how Esther persevered. Having cancer is frightening, frustrating, and exhausting. 

But maybe we can still do good things.

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