25 ways to live strong after cancer
The first Sunday of June lets us pause to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day. It’s a time to recognize the 17 million cancer survivors in the United States, and family, friends, caregivers and others also impacted by the disease. This year’s celebration is even more special to me as I recognize 25 years since my first cancer diagnosis. That’s a BIG accomplishment and blessing, one that floods me with gratitude and love. It also makes me pause to consider 25 ways to live strong after cancer.
Learning to live strong
Twenty-five years ago, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma the week before National Cancer Survivors Day. Back then, I couldn’t comprehend what it meant to a cancer survivor, let alone the challenges I would face through an aggressive chemotherapy plan. I didn’t yet know the hard work it would take to recover from the surgery that would remove the tumor and replace my femur and knee with titanium. Learning to walk and trust my body would force me to reach into the depths of strength, courage, motivation and optimism. I couldn’t yet understand the physical, mental and emotional impact that cancer would have on my life.
At the time of my bone cancer diagnosis, I was 21. Three months from graduating college, excited for a great career in public relations and marketing. Oh, did I have plans! Thoughts of marriage, children, travel plans and so much more. Not understanding how my world was about to be shattered and it would be up to me to figure out how to rebuild. Not just this one time, but twice more would cancer push me. And losing my dad to cancer as an added punch.
While the marriage I found didn’t go as planned, I learned so much about myself and the type of person I want to be with (and there will no settling). Despite my career going in a different direction than my 21-year-old self planned (as many careers do!), I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished in a variety of industries. I’ve checked off many travel spots on my wish list, with more to come. The hardest to accept has been cancer preventing me from having children [read my post about infertility from cancer].
Over the last 25 years, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that diagnosis, ongoing treatment side effects, challenges and more didn’t influence and impact my overall life. How could it not?
Celebrating life after cancer
But in time, I learned to embrace being a cancer survivor. To use it as a catalyst for moving forward from so much else I faced along this journey. It has become my grounding and, in some ways, litmus test for life decisions, people I surround myself with and becoming comfortable with who I am.
Please don’t misunderstand: cancer is never to be celebrated. But being alive….oh, yes, friends, being alive should be celebrated EVERY DAY. Every day lived beyond a cancer diagnosis is a gift. Every breath filling your lungs is a hug.
I use these cancer diagnoses as opportunities to learn about myself. Appreciate the world around me. My journey as a cancer survivor reminds me to not take things for granted, like my health, my body, people I love, time. It motivates me to look at life through the lens of love and gratitude, and throw my arms open to possibilities that only living can offer. And maybe living through a disease opens those arms just a bit wider.
Every day is an opportunity to live strong, whether you’re a cancer survivor, caregiver or someone impacted by this disease in some way. Because at this point, this horrible disease has touched all of us in some way. So with that, as you read this, I hope you pause to appreciate your breath, health and this day (I really do encourage you to pause in reading, close your eyes and give thanks for these things. It feels so good!). And I hope this list of 25 ways to live strong after cancer motivates you to throw your arms open to life and ask what else is possible?
25 ways to live strong after cancer.
- Get support. [Read “8 helpful cancer resources“]
- Be active. [Read “10 tips to motivate you to exercise“]
- Try new activities.
- Meet like-minded people.
- Practice self-care. [Read “Embracing ‘you do you’ care tips“]
- Sit in silence to appreciate your breath.
- Get outdoors. [Check out my post on Four benefits of being active in nature.]
- Acknowledge your body’s strength.
- Travel to learn about other locations and cultures, experience new opportunities and enjoy adventures! [Read “Travel tips from a cancer survivor“]
- Be aware of your thoughts. Of course it’s okay to not be okay. With all that we face in the world today, it’s understandable that most of us feel some sort of negative emotion at times. But you don’t want to get stuck in these feelings as it can impact our daily lives. Pay attention to where your mind goes and consider getting support if you struggle to get out of the negative loop. [Check out my post about learning to let go.]
- Make sure your body gets rest and sleep.
- Step away from drama and negative people.
- Trust your instinct.
- Don’t compare your journey to others.
- Smile and laugh at every opportunity.
- Be kind and support others in need.
- Try something new. Whether an activity, recipe, language, whatever. Life is too short to do the same thing over and over!
- Eat healthy to ensure your body has good nutrition.
- Stop to smell the flowers. Seriously, stop to smell real flowers. Pausing to appreciate beauty around you is so healing.
- Volunteer. Help others. Getting out of your own bubble helps you learn, appreciate and hopefully build compassion and tolerance.
- Use your voice to help bring positive change in our communities. [Read “Five ways to advocate for change” for tips to get started.]
- Remember you are stronger than your circumstances.
- Be proactive with your health (follow ups, screenings, etc.).
- Be open about new possibilities that can arise out of even the most challenging situations. Sometimes the unexpected opportunities are the ones that bring the most joy and ease to your life!
What are some ways that you live strong? Share in the comments to inspire others!