I was diagnosed with triple positive, stage 1 grade 2 Invasive ductal carcinoma.
I found a lump July 5th, 2017, I had a mammogram the next morning, followed by an ultra sound. It was at that time the radiologist came in to talk to me. That was the first time I felt shock because he basically told me he believed in his expert opinion that I had cancer. I can’t remember much of what he said after that, it is a blur. I remember my heart pounding and all I could think about was my husband Darren sitting in the waiting room. I wanted him to be there because I knew I wouldn’t remember what the radiologist was saying.
I would have to wait another week for a biopsy and another three weeks for the official diagnosis.
My first surgery was on Sept 22, 2017. It was called a double mastectomy with the DIEP flap reconstructive surgery. Then, a second surgery after that for implant reconstruction. Then a third surgery for ovary removal.
What I’ve learned about myself:
1. Life can be gone in a flicker.
No one’s going to stand over you and watch your every move, letting you know when you’re wasting time or directing your energy on inconsequential things. It’s easy to get off track, forgetting what is important. But you owe it to yourself to remember what really matters and to do that every single day. Recognize what your priorities are, and then turn your energy towards them. It can be that simple. Before my cancer experience, I used to run around, doing everything for everybody. While I searched for a sense of balance in my life, I never seemed to find it. That was then, this is now. I know how I want to spend my time and who I want to spend it with. Gone are the days when I feel I need to please other people or do things out of guilt. I’ve gotten really good at saying “NO,” and I want to inspire you to do the same.
2. It’s not easy to let go of worry.
Life is crazy. No one can predict the future. We can enjoy our present moment, making the most of our lives, or we can worry about what may or may not happen.
There are many things I have no power over; however, I can actively control my attitude and how I react to any given situation. It takes a lot to rattle me now and I don’t get easily worked up about things that are out of my control like I used to.
Just turn on the news and you’ll hear awful stories of innocent and unlucky people. I choose to appreciate my life, connecting with the people I love and finding joy every day. It’s easy to become obsessed with “what if” thinking, particularly given our world today. You shouldn’t have to live that way. When you spend your time worrying about the future, you aren’t doing anything but taking away the happiness you could be experiencing right now. Do the best you, have faith that things will work out and let go of pointless worry.
3. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
Avoid negativity. Figure out who in your life is supportive and optimistic and let them into your world. Ditch the people who suck the life out of you. No exceptions. Happiness is contagious and unhappy people bring everyone down. You can figure it out. Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at who you’re spending your time with. Sometimes we just outgrow friendships as we get older and change, and that’s alright. When you’re around people who are positive and make you feel good about yourself, you’ll feel it. Just like I’ve told my kids, “you will become who you hang out with.” Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with like minded people who build you up, not tear you down.
You learn who are your true friends when you go through a difficult time. They accept you in your good times and bad. The support system that I had made all the difference in the world to me, and I treasure my friends and family more now than ever before. They are my people, my purpose, my inspiration.
4. Thoughts equal feelings.
The good news is that we are capable of controlling our thoughts. Pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself. If it doesn’t feel good, shut it down. Start being your own biggest fan. You can choose to fill your head with a negative, hurtful mantra or shower yourself with thoughts that make you stronger. Actively decide to fill your mind with positive thoughts and you’ll be shocked at how much better your outlook will be. Often, if you’re feeling worried, it’s probably because of what you’re telling yourself. Instead of saying things that make you depressed or stressed out, start telling yourself that things will work out well. Tell yourself that you’re strong and can handle whatever comes your way. I’ve told myself some pretty scary things over the years. Learning to feed myself positive words has made a huge impact on how I feel, my stress level and my ability to work through any type of tough situation.
5. Look for the good.
You wouldn’t think there would be a lot of beauty inside an oncology ward, but I’m here to tell you, there’s more beauty inside those walls than I’ve ever seen. You see it in the kind-heartedness of the staff and the compassion that the patients have towards each other. There’s hope, strength, courageousness and love. People are looking for the good.
Look for the good that’s in your life, each and every day. All you have to do is open your eyes and start to truly see what’s right in front of you. When you stop taking the blessings in your life for granted and really start appreciating what you have, not what you don’t have, it’s amazing how much contentment you’ll start to feel. Slow down as you move through your day. Take the time to chat with your neighbour, taste something new or even watch the rain when it falls. It’s taking the time each day to find and appreciate the beauty in boring everyday life that’s the key to happiness.
6. Connect with who you love.
The people in our lives and the relationships we have is what ultimately matters. Take the time to connect to the people who mean the most to you. Unplug, turn off your phone and talk with the people sitting in front of you. They’re what it’s all about. Have you ever gone to a restaurant and seen people at another table looking at their phones or eating without talking to each other? I find this sad. Treasure the time you have with the people you care about. Talk about your day. Share what’s going on in your life. Make time for one another. Relationships need to be nurtured. Don’t assume people know how you feel about them. Be generous with your love and tell the people you care about how much they mean to you. Don’t wait.
The truth: I’ll never understand why I got breast cancer, and I’ve given up trying.
It’s wasted energy, and what does it matter? It happened. I remember sitting at the cancer center, waiting for my turn to see the doctor. I looked around the room and I remember saying to myself, “How did this happen to me?” But that’s the thing. How does it happen to anyone?
Live your life, each and every day, with gratitude and appreciation. Don’t hide your emotions, hold onto bitterness or drown yourself in guilt. Live fully and with determination and intention. None of us knows what will happen tomorrow, but what we can do is live our best life. Right now.
I’m blessed to be on this side of things, a year out, and so grateful for what I have. It was a scary journey, but my family and friendships are closer and stronger because of all of it. I’m more at peace today than I’ve ever been. Am I glad I got the big “C”? No, I’m not insane! At the same time, I recognize my life has become more focused on the good because of it. I hope you never ever have to hear the words, “You have cancer,” but if you do, just know that this part of your life is an important part of your journey. Good can come out of it, you just need to be willing to look.
Life will never be perfect, but it’s worth fighting for, even when it gets unbelievably hard.
Don’t spend your time worrying about what might happen or feeling badly about what could of or should have been. Try to enjoy the right here, right now, and toughen your resolve to make the most of every moment. After all this moment is all any of us really have.