life after cancer: 12 lessons learned

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but for a survivor like me, it is every day of the year. If you or someone you love has been touched by a major illness, you understand its hold is far-reaching, influencing anything and everything most take for granted. Of course, in the past two years of remission I have had highs and lows. Some days are simply better than others and sadly, there is no warning as to which days those might be. But throughout it all, my experience has kept me grounded in reality. Humbled in the miracles of survival. Grateful for second chances.
When I entered the fight against this disease, I had a strong idea of how I must think (positive!), act (proactive!), and feel (optimistic!). However, I had no idea just how much I would learn. And change. In many ways, the lessons learned make me feel an odd sense of debt to my cancer. It taught me to live again. Become an informed participant rather than a spectator. It served as a heady reminder to love harder. It helped me believe in miracles. Never underestimate the strength of the human spirit. I placed my faith in the hands of others, and they did not let me down. Cancer did not simply change who I was … it created a better version of me.
Lesson 1:
The fear of its return never truly leaves.
Lesson 2:
It is not only important but necessary to laugh at ridiculous things.
Lesson 3:
Nothing (no matter how painful or joyful) lasts forever.
Lesson 4:
Second chances are granted for a reason. Find the reason.
Lesson 5:
I continue to take myself too seriously and that is okay.
Lesson 6:
Doing what I love (writing) has become harder than ever.
Lesson 7:
Nothing is more important than my family and close friends. Nothing.
Lesson 8:
I have not miraculously transformed into Pollyanna. Translation: things still royally piss me off.
Lesson 9:
No one is immune to pain, heartache, or loss so be patient and kind.
Lesson 10:
Things are never perfect, but I am always blessed.
Lesson 11:
Even when life seems to stop, it goes on everywhere around us. Pull strength from the normalcy, its continuity.
Lesson 12:
Anything is possible.
I am not special because I survived cancer, but my story is unique and imperative to how I live my life. The experience demands my respect. And while some may wish to erase the devastation cancer can bring, I view it as worthy of remembrance. I never want to forget.
Every woman is at risk
One in eight will get it in their lifetime
Every thirteen minutes a woman dies from breast cancer
It is the leading cancer death ages 15 to 54
96 percent survive with early detection
It is 100 times more common in women than men
Be involved: Stand Up To Cancer
Be the cure: Susan G. Komen

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