What does it feel like to live life as a cancer survivor? Am I focused on the fact that there was a time in my life, when cancer was lurking in my body? Do I live in fear of it coming back?
According to the 2017 statistics from the American Cancer Society, there are over 15 million people who are either cancer survivors or who are currently in active treatment. The number of newly diagnosed cases is expected to be approximately 1.6 million this year alone. These numbers indicate what you already know: there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been personally touched by this disease. Everyone knows someone who has received a diagnosis and sadly, someone who has fought cancer and lost. Fortunately, we all know many more people who are cancer survivors.
There are a lot of people who are living life as survivors.
When you get diagnosed with cancer, it takes your breath away. You don’t know what to do or where to turn. Once you get past the initial shock, you focus on your treatment options and on formulating a plan. If you’re lucky, you have a lot of options and you make the best decisions with the information provided. No matter what you’re dealing with, you move forward and you fight, one day at a time one step at a time.
I suppose it’s similar to anyone who has ever experienced a potentially life threatening situation: a heart attack patient worrying if another attack is coming, a stroke patient fearing future episodes, a dialysis patient concerned with upcoming options.
Like with most things, you do the best you can with the hand you’ve been dealt.
Most of the time, I live in a place of deep gratitude. I’m so busy feeling grateful for all of the blessings in my life, I don’t have time to think about what might or might not happen in the future. I realize not everyone who gets diagnosed with cancer gets to be call a survivor and I don’t take this lightly.
I’ve seen first hand that life is uncertain and unpredictable. A person who has gone through a challenging experience understands anything can happen to anyone at anytime.
Just turn on the news tonight, and listen to all of the random unforeseen events that transpired during the day. There truly aren’t any guarantees, for any of us.
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Being a cancer survivor means you understand that shit can happen.
Out of the blue.
It means you’ve lost the illusion that you and your family are safe from bad things happening. A cancer survivor knows that no one is exempt from hard times. I talk a lot about this on my podcast, Thrive: The Podcast with Garth and Dara.
But, because of what I’ve gone through and the clear understanding I have of the fragility of life, I don’t take my life for granted.
I’ve been told to consider myself cured and I know my chances of remaining cancer free are extremely high. I also recognize nothing is a guarantee.
Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone.
How do I live my life knowing all of this?
Living each day with intention and purpose has become important to me. I try not to focus on the future or the past, but rather the right here right now. I’m not what happened to me. That’s in the past. I’m not what might happen. That’s in the future.
Living life as a cancer survivor has made me more aware of how I want to spend my time and who I want to spend that time with.
I truly view each day as a gift and I look for the beauty that’s all around me. I didn’t even understand what living with gratitude meant before I went through breast cancer. Because of my experience, my days are richer and fuller.
If you’ve been through a hard time and you’re struggling with how to make peace with it, I hope this helps. The best advice I can give you is to accept what happened, enjoy the moment you’re in and let the rest go. I’m not trying to simplify what you’re facing, but you have a choice. You can worry about what you can’t control, what might or might not happen, or you can enjoy your life.
Today. Right now. In this moment.
Worry is a wasted emotion and fear can be debilitating. Don’t give these emotions power or let them steal your joy. Instead, you have to actively decide you’re going to make the most of each beautiful day, and then do it!
Find meaning each day,