My Journey: What Cancer Can Do

By Catie McGoldrick


No matter the depth of your compassion, empathy or understanding, until a medical professional levels you with the word cancer, the impact is incomprehensible.

A year ago this week I began treatments for throat cancer. Since I have never smoked, drank, dipped or chewed, nothing could have caught me more unaware. Treatments were physically exhausting and not unlike the old medieval system of torture, complete with facial apparatuses. Surviving almost seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy may not have made me a superhero, but the experience definitely qualified me as a contender. I know that I am a stronger person each and every day.

The doctors said that I would lose my sense of taste and my saliva. They said that I would have to have a feeding tube and would probably need to be hospitalized at least once during treatment. Doctors should never underestimate their patients. My taste is different, but it did come back. I refused a feeding tube, determined to keep my weight up and stay hydrated so I wouldn’t need to be hospitalized. I am now waiting patiently for my saliva to return and have no doubts that it will happen eventually.

In the ’90s I was a therapist in private practice, dabbling with writing therapeutic metaphors as a way to help my clients, but when I began raising my grandchildren, I wanted a schedule that conformed to theirs. I became a counselor for an elementary school. Education is an amazing career and has worked out beautifully, affording me time with my grandchildren. Working in education has been an incredible experience. The support that all these children have shown me is inspirational. Each day of my treatment I carried Get Well cards that my students made for me.

But I knew there was more that I was meant to do.

A bear that has been confined in a small cage over a long period of time begins to believe that those parameters are the entire world. Even if the bear is released into the wild, it takes her a long time to explore outside the size of her mental confinement. As my grandchildren grew and became more independent, I seemed to be more like the old bear, destined to pace my imaginary enclosure, held in check by nothing more than the habit of limiting beliefs.

Then came my diagnosis. The old bear stopped pacing and rose up with a roar.

I’ve read and enjoyed the poem, “What Cancer Cannot Do.” Now I am also aware of what cancer can do. Cancer can knock the complacency right out of you. Cancer can give you back desires that you thought were unimportant and long gone. Cancer can offer you an opportunity to be more authentic than you’ve ever dared to be. Cancer can arouse a fight response that you never thought you were capable of. Cancer can make you more grateful than your whole being can contain. Cancer dares to ask your mortality, “If not now, when?”

Following treatment, I took what cancer taught me and ran as fast and as hard as I could toward new finish lines. I received my Life Coach Certification and began a small private practice, where I help people get past places in their lives where they are stuck emotionally or creatively. I started a weekly blog at I also began working on a new book in earnest. No more dilly-dallying for me. Not in any area of my life. My book, The Wednesday Boy, was launched September 16th on Kindle. It is the first book in the seven part Diamond Series, stories written to empower and entertain middle school aged girls, who seem to be the most vulnerable to body image, self-esteem and relationship issues, as well as bullying of all kinds. Come to find out, the story is also empowering adult women, helping them to stand up for themselves and find their voices. The next book, The Queen of Sunday, will be out in January of 2012.

Many people believe that cancer is a thief, but I think what cancer takes from us is simply payment for the most vigorous training camp ever experienced. We are all dancing with death; it is simply a question of who we decide to let lead.

Take the lead.

Enjoy every second and make the music your own.


About this writer

  • Catie McGoldrick Catie McGoldrick is a cancer survivor, living in Oklahoma where she works as a school counselor, life coach and author. Catie has her Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Oklahoma State University. Her weekly blog can be found at It is her hope that she can be a catalyst in empowering women to be in control of their lives and destinies.

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3 Responses to “My Journey: What Cancer Can Do”

  1. Catie McGoldrick’s article about “What Caner Can Do” was absolutely inspiring.
    Thank you!

  2. rebecca morrison says:

    mrs.catie that is very inspiring.we love you and anderson misses you

  3. Mary Lou McGoldrick Hill says:

    I was so moved by your writing. Your strength and vitality come through with every word. Thank you.

    But it was your name that grabbed me and made me feel connected to you. My maiden name is McGoldrick. My daughter’s first name is Catie (Catharine). Your name is the combination of myself and my Catie. Catie with the last name McGoldrick is not something I ever thought of.

    Thank you, your writing is inspiring. Pls get well

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