Cancer Gave Me The Gift of Knowing Human Frailty

I was 40 and already had a head of prematurely gray hair (I hide it well) when Dr. Testroet called with the crappy cancer news, but the following words from Jen Wilkin’s 27-year-old experience ring true inside of me.

Once you hear a cancer diagnosis, you can’t unhear it. Even with successful treatment, it changes the way you number your days. I had been given an opportunity not many 27-year-olds could claim: the opportunity to count each of my days as precious. Any illusions I might have had that this life would last forever were effectively removed. I learned a perspective that many don’t grasp until the aging process begins its faithful instruction in universal human frailty. I didn’t have to wait for crow’s feet or hip replacement. My eternal Father taught me young to pursue the sacred calling to “live this day well.” Jen Wilkin, None Like Him

Nobody wants cancer.

I know cancer survivors who have made it through treatment and are really not even interested in talking about it again. Ever. It’s a piece of their lives they’d rather forget. Or at least think about only when absolutely necessary.

Sometimes I want to do that. I think to myself, “Kim, what the heck are you doing? Why do you continue to invite the heartache in?” My own personal heartache ebbs and flows (mostly it ebbs these days) but I allow myself to enter into the heartache of others and it weighs on my soul like a heavy blanket on a hot summer day.

But that weight. It has purpose.

The heavy

keeps me

dependent on Christ.

The heavy

keeps me from

Living a passive life.

The life I live is filled with life.

I see things with different eyes than I did a few years ago. Those eyes of pre-40 Kim weren’t bad. I could’ve lived another half century with them and gotten along just fine.

But these new eyes? These eyes that are fueled by the weight of truly knowing human frailty? I am in love with these eyes.

Through them I see things I never used to see. I feel things I never used to feel. I love things I never used to even pay attention to.

Photo by Kim Harms

Each time that I sit in my backyard, I do so with a sense of amazement. The trees. The birds. The cutest little cabin ever. Sometimes I wonder if it’s going to wear off. But I don’t think my new eyes will allow it.

When my family grabs tennis racquets and heads to the old beat up courts with giant tar-filled cracks at Centennial Park, I am in heaven. I am simply hitting a little yellow ball over a net (very poorly I might add) and I am in heaven.

When Lewis sings his sweet self to sleep at night it feels almost like a holy experience (Can a Greatest Showman medley be holy?)

When a bunch of teen boys fill my house with laughter and eat my food (and move an extremely heavy old couch through our “forest” to the road for disposal pick up) my heart is full.

When Corey and I watch an episode of the Parks and Rec for the 5th time, I am entirely contented.

These things may have all happened if I had not gotten breast cancer. And I likely would have enjoyed each one very much. But they would have been different. I don’t think I could have taught myself to look at life this way.

So because of these new eyes, I’m thankful for the cancer. I’m thankful for the weight. I’m thankful that God in his infinite wisdom keeps giving me opportunities to enter into the heartache of others. (Some of those others I can physically reach out and hug, and some I will never meet outside the confines of my Surface Pro.)

The more raw and deep the heartache, the more heavy and cumbersome the weight, the more beautiful the mundane becomes. The more awe-inspiring the every day.

[bctt tweet=”All the ordinary and inconsequential things of life become infinitely more valuable through the eyes of a soul that is heavy with the knowledge of human frailty.” username=”@kimkayeharms”]

I choose to be grateful and to forever praise the One who knew the only way to give me new eyes was through the weight of a broken heart.

By KimHarms

Kim Harms is an author, speaker, and part-time library assistant with two decades of freelance writing experience. She has a degree in English from Iowa State University. She and her husband Corey have three super-awesome sons and one crazy dog. A two-time breast cancer survivor, her first book, Life Reconstructed: Navigating the World of Mastectomies and Breast Reconstruction (Familius), is a guide for women walking the breast cancer road. She is currently working on her second book, a devotional for women going through breast cancer.


  1. Thank you so much. It’s everything that I wanted to say but couldn’t. Sept 2017 brought the death of my sister Deb from breast cancer. Two months later I was diagnosed. She was truly my first and last best friend. Seeing what she went through made me less afraid and for that I am thankful. There are times that I look at my scar and say so what, could have been worse and then there are those times I look and can’t believe I lost a breast and my sister. I grieve for both but mostly for her because I want so deeply to talk with her about this.

    1. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story Sharon. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a sister and then to be diagnosed yourself. That is hard stuff! The same thing happens to me when I think about what I’ve been through. Sometimes, I think it could have been so much worse, and other times I can hardly fathom that I am really living post-cancer without my natural breasts.

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