26 life lessons learned from clearing cancer

I choose to love living!

Cancer sucks. Life can….suck at times. And if we choose, we’ll stay focused on the darkness of our challenges. Or we can choose to learn. As a three-time cancer survivor, there have been many life lessons learned from clearing cancer. Keep reading for a few of those that may resonate with you too.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that June is powerful month of milestones. I completed treatment for both bone cancer and breast cancer in this month. So it’s always a time that I like to pause to reflect on the challenges I endured, what I’ve overcome, what I’ve learned and how I want to continue to grow as a woman and human being.

A young adult learning to live after clearing cancer

When I finished treatment for bone cancer 26 years ago, it was a culmination of a lot of…..stuff. At 21 years old, I endured 13 months of chemotherapy – all treatments were in-patient at the hospital, ranging 5-9 days), a surgery to replace my femur, upper tibia and knee with titanium, learning to walk again (after 7 months on crutches), 30+ blood transfusions and more. That didn’t include the mental and emotional punches. In between hospitalizations, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University – on crutches and wearing a wig.

I still vividly remember leaving the hospital after that final chemo treatment. I was bald, barely 110 pounds and completely unsure what the next day would bring.

But in those first few moments of leaving the hospital, walking on my own two legs, I knew down to the very core of my soul that I was ready to LIVE. I was 22 and had no idea where life would take me. I felt different, changed, but not quite sure what to do with this change or the next chapter of my life. But in that moment, I didn’t care. I simply knew, believed, trusted that I would be alive to experience it and figure it out along the way. I chose to love living. And that would be my power throughout my (very long) life.

My college boyfriend was with me so drove me to my parents’ house where I was living. We drove with the windows down so I could feel the sunshine and fresh air on my face and head. We smiled and laughed. In those moments, I chose to feel carefree and young again.

I admittedly have not always embraced life as I did in those moments of finishing treatment. Other people have directed my life at times. Too many wasted moments of people-pleasing and standing on the sidelines of my own life. I can’t change those moments but I can LEARN FROM THEM.

While cancer caused a lot of chaos in my life, I’ve also learned a lot over the years. Lessons that guide and teach me again and again. I like to write some of these lessons down to remind myself of these valuable principles. They may not resonate with everyone, and that’s okay since they are my lessons. But sometimes others do relate so I thought I would share some that are impactful for me.

26 life lessons learned from clearing cancer:

  1. Be true to you. Trust your instinct. Maintain boundaries. Focus on your goals and dreams.
  2. Take care of your body. Listen to your body’s needs. Be kind to it by staying active and providing good nourishment. Get preventive screenings and be proactive with your health. You get ONE body, learning to LOVE it.
  3. Stop living for society. You don’t need to keep up with the neighbors. Get married, or don’t. Have kids, or don’t. Stop being a people pleaser or sitting in the corner because that’s what others say you should do. Live your life for YOU.
  4. Manage your mindset. Our mental health is as important as our physical health. And, in fact, our mental health can impact our physical health.
  5. Don’t chase people. If someone wants to be with you, they will. Giving someone an extra chance or two is fine. But know your worth and time are as valuable as someone else’s.
  6. Learn to listen more than you speak. Don’t listen to respond, but instead be present (no multi-tasking) and actively listen.
  7. Know how to apologize…..and mean it.
  8. Complain less. Spread gratitude more.
  9. Be active. Moving your body even a few minutes a day can have great benefits to your health. Walk, swim, bike, lift weights, practice yoga, whatever you enjoy to keep you moving! Need help getting started? Read ‘5 tips to motivate you to exercise’ blog post.
  10. Find your community. Join groups with similar hobbies and interests. Attend activities that you enjoy to meet new friends. Build a strong support system. And know that your community and friends will change as you do.
  11. Use your voice! Sitting on the sidelines of society and hiding your head in the sand doesn’t work at making life better for anyone, including you. We’re all connected in this world. And so many of us have the ability to use our voices for positive change that many people around the world don’t. If you’re an American, we especially have the privilege and right to vote and take action to protect our democracy, rights and others. Learn about the topics important to you. Get involved by volunteering, donating, sharing (factual) information. Positive change can’t happen without everyone coming together to work TOGETHER. Read one of my posts about how to participate in advocacy.
  12. Be kind. To yourself and others. Remember that words matter so choose to speak words of kindness and respect. And, yes, that includes to yourself.
  13. Don’t let life challenges decide who you are. YOU choose.
  14. Don’t settle. Whether on a job, relationship, friendships, dreams and more. Don’t go half-way with life. LIVE FULLY.
  15. Stop using ‘I’m so busy’ as an excuse for not doing things – not exercising, not looking for a job that excites you, not connecting with friends, not making an appointment for a cancer screening, not calling your parent/child/friend. Just stop. Because someday you won’t be able to do any of these things; you’ll be dead.
  16. Choose joy.
  17. It’s okay to change your mind, opinion, idea. Growth is amazing!
  18. Make time for people who matter to you. You are never so busy that you can’t make the time, even a few minutes for a text or call, to let someone know that you care. And when you do make that time, BE PRESENT in the moments. No multi-tasking, scrolling your phone, being distracted. Giving your whole attention to someone is a beautiful gift that you both can benefit from.
  19. Save money. Even if it’s a few dollars a week, it adds up. Stop spending more than you can and stop the excuses that prevent you from saving. Freedom from stressing over money is a true gift to yourself.
  20. Choose kindness.
  21. Choose to be a positive change in the world.
  22. Try new activities. You don’t have to be good at everything. But have some fun stepping out of your comfort zone and trying. You may find your next favorite hobby.
  23. Volunteer a few times a year at a local food bank, animal shelter and charity that supports a cause close to your heart. Giving back greatly benefits you too. This blog post shares some benefits on volunteering and how to get started helping.
  24. Learn to love yourself and be comfortable being alone.
  25. Choose to throw your arms open to life’s adventures, opportunities and beautiful moments. Take chance on something new. Because some day you won’t have another moment.
  26. Be proud of yourself! Life is an unknown with a few curve balls thrown in. Give yourself grace and gratitude.

        The benefits of these life lessons learned from clearing cancer

        These lessons have impacted my life in many ways. But I’m honestly proud of myself for finding the good in the bad and embracing the light in the dark. And I’m grateful that these lessons have helped me focus on that good and light.

        Do any of these lessons resonate with you?

        What life lessons have you learned, from clearing cancer or just living life? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

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