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I have two very important milestones occur every spring. My birthday and my last day of chemotherapy. Oddly enough, they both occur in April. I originally wrote this post to celebrate both those days, but I wanted to update it to honor National Cancer Survivors Day on June 2.
I like to think that spring is a time when everything starts over, like the flowers, the trees and, well, me. My birthday gives me the opportunity to put one year to bed with all the good and bad it may have brought, and look forward to starting over, having a clean slate. It is similar with the chemotherapy; the end of the treatments started the beginning of being a survivor.
Every year I celebrate being another year older and another year along the survivor trail. This is an epic year in my opinion because I turned 50! I truly never thought I would be saying that. I can say it because this year marks 24 years cancer free! There is so much to celebrate and be thankful for. I have been thinking about all those years and all the celebrations and I found a few things that have stuck around through the years.
I would not want to relive the year of my cancer, but I have to say there are a few things I wouldn’t give up. Going through cancer at a young age gave me the ability to appreciate some things that I maybe wouldn’t have without the cancer experience. You look at things a bit differently, a bit more maturely and the unknown makes you want to fit a whole lot of life into a short span of time, “just in case”. I can honestly say that is how I thought about it.
I came out of my diagnosis and into my survivor status with a few benefits of the process.
Positive Body Image
Never be ashamed of a scar, it simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.Unknown
One of my favorite quotes. It may sound crazy, but my body image improved after my diagnosis. I had a few surgeries, a mastectomy and an appreciation for being alive (my post-mastectomy bra recommendations are here). Don’t get me wrong, a mastectomy isn’t something that you suddenly think is “swell”, far from it.
However, once you begin to accept that the cancer is gone from you, you begin to heal. I personally began to view myself in a completely different way. I was proud of my scars. I was a fighter; I was a tough cookie and I won.
Until I had cancer, I was concerned about how my body looked, and that was pretty much it. After treatment I was concerned about how I looked, but I was also wanting to be sure that my body was strong and able to fight again. I had a mental image of strong and tough my body was, and I was super proud it was mine. I still am.
Make Time to Make Memories
“There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.”Leo Christopher
Prioritize. I used to be obsessed with keeping a clean house, like I was being graded or judged about it. Now, understand, I am not suggesting we don’t clean our house or laundry or whatever.
I am saying that I realized something that most people at the age of 26 don’t realize: time is always moving on. Nothing lasts forever but moments are always changing too. My children for example, they weren’t always going to be babies, my friends were going to get married, people move away. I realized that making my family, friends and myself a priority was most important.
Make your memories, and enjoy your time, dust and dirt will wait. I found that the holidays were a challenge for me. I loved having folks at my house, but I always ended up in the kitchen and never was able to visit and spend time with them. I decided that if I wanted to do the cooking, which I love, and be able to spend time with my guests, I better figure out a better way to organize myself. My solution? The slow cooker, or many slow cookers.
You know how on Thanksgiving you are waiting for the turkey to be done but the green beans are getting soggy because they have been done for so long? The gravy is taking forever but the mashed potatoes are piping hot and already on the table? I make everything and when it’s done, I put it on warm in a slow cooker.
Yes, mind blown, it is a stress-buster the likes I’ve never known. Double bonus? You can put the crocks right on the table OR you can transfer the food to your finest china. It depends on the holiday or celebration. If it’s a little more relaxed, just put the crocks on the table or set up a buffet type line. The point is taking the time to spend with the people.
Your Body Really is a Temple
Take Care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.Jim Rohn
A great point, you live in your body. If we don’t care for our body how can we expect it to stand up during hard times?
When I was diagnosed, I know I wasn’t eating right or caring for myself correctly. That is not why I got cancer, but it is why I decided to change the way that I did things nutrition-wise.
We can eat all the right things, exercise and meditate and still get cancer. This is an unfortunate truth. However, looking both ways before crossing the street doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get hit by a bus, but you still do it, right? Of course, because there is no guarantee, but it certainly gives you better odds. At least, that is how I look at it.
I am going to give my body every opportunity to fight off disease. I started by transitioning over to healthy eating and eliminating processed foods.
Like most things, it took some time, some trial and correction, but most of the time, I have a very healthy lifestyle. Going through chemotherapy was a real eye opener as far as needing my body to function at its best. I was losing weight, I didn’t have a lot of energy, and I had an infant and a two-year-old. I needed some energy!
I worked closely with my doctors and I was able to keep my weight up, but it was a struggle. It showed me that what foods I chose really had an impact on how my body functioned. To this day, I pay close attention to what I put in my body for nutrition. That doesn’t mean I always eat perfectly; it means I am aware of what I am eating and how much. I like birthday cake, French fries and chocolate chip cookies, I am not here to judge anyone. I do the best I can, and I don’t worry about the rest.
If you try, you can find take-aways in almost everything in life. Breast Cancer is a scary disease. I find that being able to share information with people who have been there is a comfort. I appreciate everything I was able to take away from the process and I am happy to share my stories, I think it helps people to have hope.
Resources to Help You
If you or a loved one are fighting breast cancer, I compiled a ton of resources here that you can download (for free!). It’s my way of giving back!