Monday, September 16, 2013

9 Things Cancer Has Taught Me

It's finally here! I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer on September 17, 2012. So as of tomorrow, I am so excited to say that I am a survivor of ONE year! I say "officially" because I already knew when I got the phone call. And yes, it's true that nurses make the worst patients. There are people who I went through chemo with who have already passed away. So I feel incredibly blessed to feel healthy and strong.

Looking back on the past year, I have realized that my life has changed in so many ways. I have lived more, learned more, and loved more. So here are nine things I have learned about myself and my life in the past year. Why nine you may ask? Because that's how many I ended up with when I finished typing. Duh :)

My AMAZING friends and family at the THINK PINK walk right after I was diagnosed.

Right after I had my head shaved.

First time going bald in public :)

1. I AM BLESSED. Bad things happen to everyone. But God will never put you through anything that you can't handle. He often uses our deepest pain as a launching pad for our greatest calling. When I look at my life, I don't think of myself as a victim. I look  at all the people who love me and all of the great things I have in my life and think, "Wow! I am so blessed!" Yes, a lot of the things I have been through have sucked. But there are people in this world who don't have food, or a place to live, or shoes on their feet, or any of the million things I have. There are people who would love to have my life. I can honestly say I did not view life that way before cancer. It has taught me that life is a gift from God, and it is never to be taken granted because the things you may take for granted may be the things someone else is praying for.

2. TAKE CHANCES. We have all heard that saying a million and one times. You only live once. And as annoying as it has come to be after being posted and repeated a million times, it is true. It is so easy to get bogged down with day to day life and day to day decisions that we tend to take the easy road a lot. But life is all about decisions and even though the right road may not be the easiest road, it could lead to something greater than you could ever imagine. It may be scary at times. But you'll never get there if you don't learn to take chances. Never let your fear decide your fate.

3. FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE AND BE THAT PERSON. We all have those times in our lives where we just feel completely and utterly lost. Some people go a whole lifetime feeling lost before figuring out who they are. And that's long as you are actively searching to find that person you were meant to be. Sometimes when bad things happen, it can make you reevaluate your life and help you to realize things you might not have realized before. Getting sick did this for me. It helped me to see how blessed I am. And it helped me to realize what things in life were important to me and to learn to value those things. And for those people who may still be trying to find themselves, consider this. Sometimes, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

4. NEVER STOP DREAMING. For a few days when I first got sick, I felt like my life had stopped. What was the point in dreaming about the future and the things I could do when I might not even be here to do them? This mentality didn't last long. I soon realized that no one knows what the future can bring except God, so you can't stop going after what you want, no matter what. In the past year, I have gone back to school, bought a condo, and dreamed of what my life will be like five or even ten years from now. Cancer was not the end of my life. If I would have resigned myself to doing nothing just because there was a possibility that I may not make it, then I wouldn't have the amazing life that I have now. We could all be gone tomorrow. But that won't stop us from making plans and going after our dreams today.

5. LAUGH MORE. Seriously, laughter is the best medicine. When I am in a bad mood, I do one of two things to cheer myself up. I either put on some great music or I look at funny pictures and videos and laugh until I cry. Laughing warms the heart and soul. And it is contagious. People feed off of each other. If I went around crying everyday because I had cancer, other people would feel sorry for me and cry too. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. And I don't want people to feel uncomfortable around me. So since the beginning, I have tried to make light of it and keep the jokes coming. My favorite is "These are my fake boobs. My real one's tried to kill me." :) Not only does it give others hope to see you in good spirits but it can heal YOUR soul as well. So surround yourself with positive people who try to see the good and the funny in situations and laugh with them.

6. LOVE MORE. To love another person, is to see the face of God. So love, love, and love some more. And forgive those who have wronged you. No matter what. And let yourself be loved. Without those who love us and support us, life would be empty. One of my favorite bands, Mumford & Sons, put it perfectly, "Love, it will not betray you, dismay you, or enslave you. It will set you free." Remember, "You are loved more than you will ever know, by someone who died to know you. " Romans 5:8

Also, be kind. In fact, be a little kinder than necessary. You never what what storms God may have asked a person to walk through.

7. ACCEPT and RESPECT YOURSELF. The good and the bad. Hair, scars, and all. Accept everything about yourself and learn to embrace it. You were made in God's image so love yourself and treat your body with respect. And always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. In times of doubt, just step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and where you want to be. You are never as broken as you think you are. Sure, you have a couple of scars and maybe a couple of bad memories, but then again, all the great heroes do :)

8. DON'T WORRY. BE HAPPY. Sometimes what screws us up the most is the picture in our heads of how things are supposed to be. Well I have breaking are EXACTLY where you are supposed to be. So don't worry about it. So maybe you wish you were somewhere else in life? You will get there when you are meant to get there and not one moment sooner. So relax, breathe, and be patient. It's in God's hands. I have spoken in the past about the serious anxiety I have sometimes encountered about the cancer coming back. But in the end, I have to remind myself that there is nothing I can do about it. Worry won't stop bad stuff from happening, it will stop you from enjoying the good.

9. MOVE ON WHEN THE TIME COMES. You have to let yourself move on to the next chapter in life when the times comes, whether it's from cancer, a significant other, a job, a bad place in life, etc. Don't get stuck on the same page.

So there you have it. Nine ways in which cancer has changed my life for the better in the past year. One of my favorite quotes of all times is by Robert Frost, "I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." Sometimes great things come out of bad situations. In the past year, I have met amazing people and done amazing things...things I never would have done before. And I have come to love my life and my God even more. And I have learned to take my hardships and use them in a positive way. Life is a beautiful struggle. You just have to have the courage to live it.