Cancer. I had it. And then I didn’t. It was a very surreal emotional roller coaster I was on earlier this year. I’m happy to be closing out 2018 with that part of my journey in the past. While the diagnosis, surgery, and recovery all occurred within a matter of a few months (thankfully!) I walked away with a whole long list of what I learned about myself. Cancer is good for some things – it’s taught me a lot about what I value most in my life. Here are my top 10 lessons I’ve learned.
I hope that some of my learnings I share below can help you in some way in your own journeys!
Time is precious and limited. Use it wisely.
When I was getting my CT scans done, or lying down on the surgery table, flashes of time were zooming around in my head. There was so much more I wanted to do and see. This just couldn’t be it! I told myself that if I were to recover from cancer, I would be intentional with my time. The time we have here is never guaranteed. Anything can happen to anyone at any moment. How you spend your time and who you spend your time with is what makes life, life.
True friendships will always rise to the top.
When you’re in good spirits and always happy, there are so many people that want to be around you. It’s natural – being around positive people lifts everyone up! But I’ve realized, when you’re going through a trauma or a hardship, the people around you tends to shift a little. I can’t say I’m not bummed by having to let go of certain friendships. People I’ve known for years… but when you’re on the verge of a breakdown and it’s silent or close to silent on the other end, it’s a little bit easier to walk away. Your real friends will step up for you. Cancer is not a fun or comfortable topic but the people that matter will reach out to you and support you in the ways that you need.
Take your health seriously.
That nagging pain you have in your lower back, those stomach aches you always seem to get, the irregular menstrual cycle, whatever it is. Your body is telling you something. If you don’t know why any of it is happening, then I urge you, that if something about your body feels off – look into it. This is not meant to scare anyone at all but it’s just to be more mindful. Our body speaks to us in so many ways. When we eat something, when we move, when we don’t give it the rest it needs, our body has a response to all of it and it either tells us it’s happy or feeling sad. Take ownership of your health and your body. You only get one.
Let go of the B.S.
The day to day stresses don’t matter. Honestly, I do find myself having to check myself on this daily and it’s not something I’m always successful at. But I always some how come back to – “it’s only [fill in the blank].” Because it’s true. There’s very few real things that matter. The traffic, being late, someone flaking on you, not booking that project, whatever it is – ask yourself if it’s something you will be upset about in a week, a month, next year. If the answer is probably not, then it’s time to let it go!
Learn to ask for help.
There’s nothing like cancer that makes you feel vulnerable. For a while after my surgery, I wasn’t able to walk, so I had to lean on my mom for the most basic help of getting up to go to the bathroom. We grow up and work so hard to become independent. Sometimes it can be foreign to lean on others again and ask for help but it’s not only necessary but it is also a sign of your own strength. Asking for help means you’re strong enough to know when you need it.
Positivity counts for a lot.
I feel like my years of being optimistic and positive have been the training ground to get me through cancer. Cultivating positive thoughts and emotions takes work. Over the years, I’ve developed an “everything will eventually be great” mindset and I can honestly say it helped me through this. It certainly wasn’t easy the whole time – with feelings of despair, death, exhaustion in my head – but I tried to be resilient and fill my time with building positive habits like meditating and reading books and articles on strength. I truly believe that if anyone in my life had to get cancer, I’m so happy it was me because I have the skills to get through it!
Allow yourself to grieve.
When I first got diagnosed, I was shocked. During the first week though, I was joking about it and making light of the situation. Friends and family thought I was weird, why was I joking about such a serious health concern? As the weeks went on though, there were fewer jokes and reality for me set in. I hadn’t allowed myself to grieve and be sad and confused. Once I allowed myself to actually feel these scary and confusing mix of emotions, I cried. I cried a lot. And the act of shedding tears was so therapeutic for me. To actually feel, made me feel like I was not only accepting my reality but that I could start to cope with it too.
You are made up of more than you think.
When you feel like in your daily life you can’t possibly handle anymore – trust me, you can and you will be able to. The tools and strength you have in your heart and soul will get you through the most trying times and when you walk through all the hardship – on the other side you will see exactly what you’re made of. And it’s a lot!
You’re not getting this moment right now back. Stop multi-tasking, stop thinking about one thing while you’re doing another. Enjoy the company you’re with, the activity you’re in the middle of – be present with the now because the now is the only guarantee you have.
Have gratitude for life.
Gratitude and “being grateful” isn’t just an Instagrammable thing to talk about or post. It’s a way to live your life. I’m so grateful to get to go on hikes with my dog, to get to eat my mom’s food, to get to make future plans with friends. There’s so much in our lives that are good – I choose to not focus on what’s not going right in my life. What is going right is all that matters!