Have you ever been in a place in your life when you finally felt like everything was “in place” you understood and were grateful for having “enough”? Times when you thought, “I am blessed and content. “Life is good.”
Out of nowhere the rug is ripped right out from under you, turning your life upside down and inside out. Illness, loss, financial crisis or simply unexpected CHANGE. Your spirits are crushed, hopes dashed, faith shaken.
Well, I’ve been there, and as I look back, I assure you – there’s a reason for it all. You will get through it: standing taller, feeling stronger. Breast cancer was my “shot” and it is was a massive wake-up call!
And my lesson; cancer cannot cripple our lives, deplete our energy, stifle our courage, shatter our hope, corrode our faith. Simply because life ~ This gift we’ve been granted doesn’t deserve to be robbed or paralyzed by fear.
Cancer is a monster! Yet, the resilience of the mighty human spirit is so much bigger.
Experiencing shock, fear and grief reveals the truest sense of who we are. Learning we have cancer, that the gift of life is no longer guaranteed is explosive, yet picking up and guarding the pieces of our life that make us whole is a transition of a lifetime.
As a survivor, I speak the language of gratitude daily, and my commitment to share my experience and write a book awakened a euphoric feeling that I have grabbed hold of and speak to with tremendous thanksgiving.
After all, If you know more than eight women, then breast cancer will impact your life at some point! I am a wife and mother who has lived
this infamous statistic – that one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is shocking when it strikes someone you love and even worse, when you are the chosen one.
I was blindsided by Stage II ~ Highly Irregular Ductul Carcinoma” (a fast growing tumor, in my right breast, one that my initial mammogram was not able to detect). Oh, I certainly did feel and was terrorized by a lump. Yet, it’s irregular shape made its detection a challenge for professionals. It was only after receiving a standard letter, noting a clear mammography and reminder to make may next annual appointment that I picked up the phone and requested further testing because something was not right! Something I did without question, I’ve learned, is often a difficult step for many to take.
Hearing “You have cancer” was shocking. And the extra kicker was, Triple Negative Breast Cancer; a rarer type of aggressive breast cancer.
There is no “good” type of breast cancer, yet the phrase “triple negative” carries a heavy weight. The disease is notorious for having a poorer survival rate, and is less well understood than other types of breast cancer. Although triple negative breast cancer tends to have poorer survival rates than other types, this blunt statistic HIDES a slightly more optimistic situation. Yes, there is a higher chance that the cancer will come back within 5 years. Yet, once that hurdle is cleared, then the chances of survival are greater – something that rarely gets mentioned when people talk about this monster.
In a matter of weeks, I went through the emotional and informational rollercoaster of experiencing nearly every possibility of breast cancer before surgery and beginning treatment. In a flash, I received an eye-opening crash course into the world of breast cancer research, treatments and communities.
Today I am a fierce advocate and believe with all my heart that our lives are simply a reflection and flow of who we are, what we do and where we’ve been. Not expected, breast cancer is never a welcome guest in our lives, yet it’s presence has taught me over time that the unexpected can give new meaning to our lives. I needed to shed the emphasis I placed on being in control and now place a greater trust in letting things naturally happen. Discipline and routine owned me, before breast cancer attacked, and I’m now taking a bigger bite out of life and putting my trust in chance for a change.
I’m putting so much more into practice with authenticity, too!
Cancer brings opportunity for reflection and introspection, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we ask ourselves the right questions.
Life before cancer required a zoom lens that I focused on the details ~ things always had to be done and in order, at a frenzied pace. Today I work on slowing down and taking my time to look at the landscape around me ~ I try to think before I act. Quite frankly, today, my life post~cancer is now nothing short of panoramic.
The change in our behavior and priorities, bring amazing emotional release and creates so much more space to let our life flow. I now know that our healing has to come from a new set of circumstances, asking ourselves to listen to our intuitions with a sense of openness not fear. My feelings needed to be listened to as cues and signals that spoke to where I was and what I needed. And I really do believe that pain and challenges are a sign of growing, and when we are suddenly gentle with ourselves, we generate the same energy in others. Vulnerability, too, is a breeze when we love ourselves.
Think about it.
When we are not completely comfortable with ourselves, we guard our insecurities and the space between us and vulnerability is as wide as the ocean and we need all the courage we can gather to swim across.
With vulnerability, we experience true connection ~ respect for ourselves~ and we then attract others who are inspired by our openness. So, I encourage everyone to, like me, to show your complexities. You will be pleasantly surprised how loving and respecting ourselves and sharing this with others will connect us with everyone.
Without question more than anything else, cancer has strengthened my view and value of our human connection, and the significance of human kindness that means so much more than things. I now know that our human spirit can overcome and soar above adversity, that every negative becomes a positive, and tremendous strength is revealed when we embrace it. I now try to live each day fully not relying on tomorrow, which after all is not a given.
I am humbled to be healthy and alive, today. This life is a gift, every day is a gift. Our ability to achieve does not define us! It’s our ability to love and be compassionate to others using whatever gifts God has given us that defines each of us. So, do what you can while focusing on what’s important.
I’m now learning, with practice, to stop talking long enough to really hear what others have to say. When we invite others to share their fears, concerns ~ their story ~ we all benefit and feed off of this feeling a renewed sense of mutual respect and enthusiasm.
Life, we’re all in this together; it’s scary ~ life can be scary, but God it’s an adventure.
My message, today, is it’s time to find your Life
Embrace it! Own it! Live Like Crazy because…
We already are . . . . .
If you think something is missing in your life, it likely is you.
We need to give more of who we are, in order to fill ourselves up. As a cancer survivor, the trick, I’ve learned, is not turning our back on our ourselves and thinking our life must resemble others, in order to be:
Content ~ Happy ~ Successful
There is danger in shifting our focus and leaving the spirit of who we fundamentally are in the dust, because the secret to happiness is to know that we are already happy.
We are already valuable and do not need anyone or anything to prove it.
We are already whole, there is nothing we need to do or fix in order to be loved. Our life is already full and we create our limitations.
No amount of self-improvement can make up for no self-esteem.
Being happy with ourself = Being happy with our life!
Our true self, that is better than anything we can manufacture, already exists inside ourselves.
So, step out of the land of comparison and critical thought, that leaves us exhausted and never feeling like we do enough. Accept yourself for who you are and allow peace in your heart.
Our purpose in life isn’t to always better ourselves, it is to simply BE ourselves ~ Just as we are NOW.