I recently celebrated another birthday, being spoiled by family and friends. I realized this birthday that I have been a cancer survivor longer than I have not. Many emotions swirl with that thought.
If you follow my Instagram feed or read my last blog, you know I recently had surgery to replace parts of my knee hardware (received when my femur, knee and upper tibia were replaced with titanium during bone cancer treatment). My recovery from this major unexpected surgery has been thankfully progressive and positive.
Surgery was a reminder that cancer never really leaves your life, no matter how far from treatment. Not that I need a reminder, of course, since it’s the one thing I think about every darn day. Side effects – physical, emotion and mental – are daily life. Celebrating another year of life is never something I take for granted. Every birthday, every day, every breath, I am grateful. Another birthday is never guaranteed – for any of us!
While cancer completely changed my life, and led me on a fascinating journey, I can honestly say it was the worst thing to touch my life, and even more so when my dad died from cancer. And yet…..there have been amazing moments that I wouldn’t have experienced without this diagnosis. Maybe I just need to focus my outlook on the positive because I know there will never be a ‘good enough’ explanation for why both my dad and I were diagnosed. But there have been truly positive, happy, loving moments that occurred from my diagnosis and journey. I have connected with thousands of people as fellow cancer survivors, I have felt the strongest, most powerfully comforting connection with a special few who ‘get me’ as a survivor, traveled across the country for advocacy events and survivor conferences, been pushed to try new things, and marveled at the simplest, most joyful experiences and moments because I know every moment is a gift.
Going through this disease is a wake up call, and if it doesn’t wake someone up to the world around them, then I feel sorry. Sorry they are missing opportunities to embrace all this life is willing to give. If we only have the courage to go after who and what we want. Cancer taught me many things so in celebration of my birthday and gratitude at living life, I want to reflect on a few.
Cancer taught me about love. It is a truly great gift, even if sometimes confusing as f*&$ (sorry for my implied language, but seriously, it is). It made me appreciate how beautiful it can be, and come from people you least expect. Love may not fit the person or situation you expected in your mind, so open your heart without fear. I don’t have to rescue men, nor be rescued. I can open my arms and heart to real love and receive it, no matter where it goes. Cancer taught me to not stay in a relationship because it’s comfortable, expected, ‘been so long.’ Ugh, I hear and observe so many people in relationships like this. Hell no will I settle for less than the love and happiness I deserve. Life is much too precious and short for that nonsense. I will always be a romantic and my heart is open, but I’m not in a rush….no, the right person is worth the wait for the right timing.
Cancer taught me that people will judge, discriminate, assume and stereotype about your disease. A guy once said he couldn’t date me because I might die. Friends have not invited me to participate in an activity because they assumed (incorrectly) I couldn’t do it with the rod in my life. I fight against discrimination for a pre-existing condition that I never asked for. Each of these moments, while hurtful at the time, help me embrace who I am, find bravery, and work harder to make others understand the impact of this disease.
Cancer taught me to and use my voice to help others, whether through kindness, action, writings, hugs. If my efforts can help even one other person and family celebrate life longer, then it will all be worth it.
Cancer is still teaching me to not settle in life, whether it’s my career, love life and more. The Universe has been sending a lot of wake up calls and reminders that we all have choices in this life. We make choices to stay in a situation, settle, remain planted in a location or job, and more. Those are all choices, and if you’re happy, then embrace those choices. But never forget to check in and make sure you’re living your life, not settling into your comfort zone for the long haul until this life ends. Embrace YOU. Find your courage, your joy, open your heart, seek out adventure and new experiences. Celebrate every day.