45 reasons to celebrate life as a cancer survivor

It feels great to celebrate another birthday!

Birthdays are a big deal in my family. This was true long before cancer touched my family but especially now. As a three-time cancer survivor, I don’t take these opportunities for granted. I am grateful for the gift of another day. As I turn the page of another year, I wanted to pause to share 45 reasons to celebrate life as a cancer survivor.

My birthday present to all of you is simply to remind us that there is always gratitude to be found in this world. Even when you feel broken, it feels like challenges will overwhelm you, or luck and love seem to evade your day, you can feel grateful. Sometimes it is focusing on a simple breath in to remind you that you’re still alive. Next, focus on a grateful thought, then another and another. Until you remind yourself that yes, you can do this beautiful, sometimes messy and confusing, thing called life.

Finding the positive in each new day

In more than 40 years of life and almost 25 years as a cancer survivor, I have walked through a lot of darkness. Three cancers and health challenges from treatments, my dad’s death from cancer, divorce, heartbreak, disappointment, infertility, limitations, frustration and more. I could easily focus on the heartache and sadness from these, and most would probably agree I earned that right. But…..that’s not me. Because I’ve learned focusing on the negative doesn’t ever change the negative. Instead, it seems to reinforce it.

But changing my mentality to focus on the positive often brings…..positivity and unexpected outcomes. I get it, this probably sounds silly, like someone babbling about philosophy. However, stay with me. If you can pause for a moment, focus on some things you’re grateful for and bring you joy, really focus… don’t you feel a subtle shifting of your mind and emotions? Maybe a little smile or blip of happiness. Come on, try it!

In honor of my birthday, I’m going to share a list of 45 reasons to celebrate life as a cancer survivor (and you can smile at these whether you’re a cancer survivor or not!). These are many of the items I list in a journal and refer to when I’m having a tough day. They bring me joy and I hope you too.

45 reasons to celebrate life as a cancer survivor:

*These are in no particular order!

  1. Bright flowers, especially yellow sunflowers
  2. Road trips
  3. Walking on my own two legs after bone cancer
  4. Hugs from my nieces and nephew
  5. Being the middle sister between two amazing sisters/best friends
  6. The velvet touch of a horse’s muzzle (chin/mouth/nose area); really, everything about a horse
  7. Exploring new location and cultures
  8. Music….there is a song for each mood and adventure!
  9. Dog snuggles
  10. Books
  11. Growing vegetables in a garden
  12. Tossing aside society’s (and sometimes our own!) expectations and ideals about love and opening up to the right love that brings happiness, adventures, support and so much more
  13. The love from my parents and happy childhood memories
  14. Hiking in the woods
  15. Overcoming fear of failure to try something new
  16. The satisfying exhaustion after a great workout
  17. Crisp white wine and craft beer
  18. Working with others to fight cancer
  19. Morning bike rides
  20. Walking in the surf on the beach
  21. Excitement and anticipation of trying something new
  22. Having hair after chemo (or during – read how I saved my hair during chemo). I will never take my hair for granted!
  23. Clean sheets, comfortable bed and cozy home to relax
  24. Fresh air and a gentle breeze
  25. Sunshine to make you smile and warm the day
  26. Scalp massages
  27. Walking barefoot in soft grass
  28. Beautiful, colorful sunsets
  29. The smile you can’t stop when a random text comes from someone special
  30. A ‘clear’ (no signs of cancer) check up
  31. The right to vote
  32. Good friends who stay with you through life’s journey
  33. A starry night (wish upon your first star!)
  34. Laughter, especially the belly-ache type
  35. Imagination
  36. The scent of lilacs
  37. Kindness from others
  38. Family vacations (and all our time together)
  39. Sleeping in a tent (no rain, please!)
  40. Fun surprises (flowers, cards, trips, etc)
  41. Feeling confident in your decisions/learning to trust your instinct/self
  42. Peppermint tea
  43. Volunteering/helping others
  44. A body that is strong and healthy after three cancers
  45. Waking up to a new day

I could of course add so much more! There is a lot to celebrate in this life. What brings you gratitude and joy?

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