How has your cancer experience shaped your life? It’s been 3 years and 1 month since my initial breast cancer diagnosis. In the cancer community we call this milestone a “cancerversary”. In my life it has been important to stop and appreciate these moments and the gift of another trip around the sun. Some people count the day they were diagnosed and others celebrate the last day of chemo. I like to use the my diagnosis date, because that’s the moment my life changed forever.
Today I am sitting down to reflect on my road up to this 3 year “cancerversary”. I am slowing down to reflect on what I have learned, how I have grown and all that I am grateful for this year. Hindsight is 20/20 and there is a lot I have learned that I wish I knew from the beginning. By looking back I can see how far I have come and hopefully lend some support and hope to those just beginning their cancer journeys. No matter what you are going through in this moment, know there is light on the other side and you will thrive again someday soon.
Check out my 2 year cancerversary post as well
Let’s jump right into the lessons learned from my cancer experience
1. You are stronger than you know
Sure it’s a cliche saying, but it’s SO true. Powerful enough that I have it tattooed on my arm. Everyone says you’re brave, but the reality is in the face of cancer you do what you have to do to survive. While this may not have been a choice, you know have the experience of extreme resilience and strength. Don’t ever forget this. If you face cancer, you can take on anything. A move, a job change, a divorce… never forget your inner strength.
2. You are beautiful no matter how you “Look”
This is one lesson that I am still learning. My physical appearance has gone through so many changes over the past 3 years but I am still ME. My smile stays true and my heart is still mine. While it’s easy to get caught up in the external appearance and our desire to look a certain way, I have truly been forced to look within and find value and appreciation for the true me. While my self-confidence may waiver, I embrace my vulnerability and move forward each day proud of myself and the person I am. I am beautiful because I am strong, I am kind and I am passionate about making the world a better place.
3. Community is everything
I say everyday that I would not be where I am without the tribe of amazing women and men supporting me. First of all, my husband is my biggest cheerleader and supporter. He constantly pushes me to be a better person and celebrates my growth with his words, his love and his priorities. Next, I am immensely thankful for my friends and family who supported me through the cancer transition and into my life beyond. They knew me before and have enthusiastically embraced this new life I am building for myself. Lastly, I must embrace gratitude for the community of women and men I have met in the past three years. Cancer has allowed me to bare my soul, share my vulnerabilities and connect with people on a deeper level than ever before. These connections I have made are deep and long lasting. These people encourage me to thrive as a woman, a wife, an artist, an advocate and as a female entrepreneur. Find your tribe and love them hard!
4. OK is not enough, I want to THRIVE
Before my cancer experience, I was happy enough. I loved my husband, left my career in teaching for a better work life balance and was living a healthy enough life. What I realized after my diagnosis was that passion was not driving my decisions. Instead fear was driving my decisions. I was so risk averse that I was scared to try new things or take on new opportunities. It wasn’t until after my diagnosis that I finally got up the nerve to start the blog I had always wanted to have, explore a new career and give myself the permission to THRIVE without fear. You to can do this, it just takes changing your mindset and your priorities.
5. The path or timeline may change but never change the goal
This one is so powerful!!! I spent so much time throughout my cancer journey (and to be honest still do sometimes) struggling to accept the changes to my path. Whether it’s when we will start a family, my health treatment, or my overall career goals… it can be hard to accept that while the timeline or path may change, it does not mean the goals are not achievable. I constantly remind myself of this with a little help from my hubby. One day I hope to master this mindset.
I could go on and on with more reflections, but I am leaving you with these 5. These 5 reflections have been the most powerful for me over the past few years. They have helped me change careers, grow my blog, build new relationships, strengthen old ones and ultimately THRIVE. I could not be more grateful than I am right now for my health, my happiness and the amazing people in my life.
I would love to know what your reflections are. How has your cancer experience or other life challenge changed your life moving forward? What are the biggest lessons you have learned?
Photography by McKenzie Claire Photography @mckenzieclairephoto