Today is a special day. Today we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day and the more than 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States, more than 32 million worldwide. Today is also celebrated as LIVESTRONG Day, a day to honor and celebrate cancer survivors, caregivers, families, friends and those who are no longer with us because of cancer. This day is a “CELEBRATION for those who have survived, an INSPIRATION for those recently diagnosed, a gathering of SUPPORT for families, and an OUTREACH to the community.”
I’ve always liked the name LIVESTRONG because I believe in living life to the fullest, happiest, healthiest and strongest. As I near completion of treatment for my third separate cancer, staying focused on these philosophies has become even more important to me. It’s not always easy and sometimes something or someone may distract from our goals. But I’ve found that if I stay true to myself and how I feel during these moments of joy, then it’s easy to walk in the right direction. Here are just a few of the ways that I choose to live strong through my daily life:
Gain knowledge. I’ve always been curious and love to learn. Probably no surprise that I majored in journalism during undergrad work. Being diagnosis brings a lot of uncertainty, which can lead to feeling anxiety, fear, lack of control and more. Thankfully there are a lot of resources available from great places, including LIVESTRONG (check out my favorite programs), Cancer Support Community and National Coalition for Cancer Survivors. I previously shared some helpful cancer resources – click here to read that post. When I get stuck in a situation, feel heavy thoughts or feelings pulling me down, encounter negative people, or face anything that needs some clarity, I ask myself some questions – What do I know to be true? What choices do I have? What can I choose today? What else is possible? Focusing on questions like these help me step back and get centered.
Accept your body. It would be easy to feel betrayed by my body after three separate cancer diagnoses, right? I admit those feelings have crept in at times. But ultimately there is no answer to why and rather than go around in circles and focus on the negative, I choose to focus on the positive – my body has survived osteosarcoma, melanoma and breast cancer! Yes, I have limitations from the titanium rod in place of my femur and knee and yes, I modify at times or take a few more breaks than my able-bodied companions (admittedly this can frustrate me but hey, I’m not perfect!), but there is so much I can do and so much I’ve learned. My body is imperfect and I have several scars, including the 12″ one along my left thigh. Yet, most importantly, I have learned to appreciate and trust my body again. I am walking on my own two legs (my surgeon gets lots of love and thanks for this too). I can wrap my arms around family and friends for hugs. I have hair five weeks post-chemo (read about my cold cap therapy journey). I can push my body to be strong and beautiful.
Embrace laughter and joy. Unfortunately, not all of life is funny. There are many moments that are far from funny. But I also think it’s easy to overlook the good. We often look and wait for the ‘big’ moments as the simple, magical moments pass unnoticed. I believe that if you embrace and project a personality of optimism and joy, you will attract good things and people. And I definitely prefer that goodness in my life!
Help others. When I went through treatment for bone cancer at 21, I promised myself that I would help others also touched by the disease. I’ve kept that promise through mentoring, advocacy work, tips I share on this blog, articles published in magazines and more. It’s kind of become a passion of mine. I am blessed to be here after three cancers. I am grateful to have my sister after her diagnosis last year, and for the six years with my dad following his multiple myeloma diagnosis. I’m grateful for the many amazing, kind people who have come into my life because of cancer. We all can make a difference in the lives of others, through small acts of kindness. Even a smile and kind word. I encourage you to find your passion and get involved in your community. It takes one person to make positive change.
Find love in the simple and unexpected places. I make it a point to surround myself with people who share kindness, optimism and love. I used to hesitate to share my emotions, not sure how someone might respond or feel. Now, I share. I don’t want to waste one moment or have one regret about not sharing how I feel, especially when it’s heart-bursting love and soul-warming happiness. I’ve also learned love can be right in front of you, sometimes not at all what or who you expected. Don’t miss these opportunities.
I’m embracing the idea of living strong to the fullest by joining Team LIVESTRONG to bike across Iowa this July to raise funds for and awareness of the cancer support programs offered by LIVESTRONG. If you’d like to support my efforts, please consider a donation. Any amount is appreciated – every $10 donation increment will be entered into a drawing to win a Michigan-themed goodie bag!
How do you live strong and bring joy to your life each day?