What would I tell my newly diagnosed self? I would say it’s okay to be angry, scared and all the other negative feelings we fight so hard against. And that your cancer doesn’t have to be some part of a bigger picture, a bigger plan to have a positive impact on the world. Because fighting for your life is hard enough, you don’t need to add the pressure of being an inspiration into the mix.
I’ve always been a fixer. I know this about myself. If I encounter a problem, I immediately try to fix it. If a friend tells me about a problem they are facing, same thing, I try to fix it for them, too. You may be thinking that isn’t such a bad quality to have. And usually, it isn’t. But there were times when I should have slowed down and processed what I was feeling because of that problem instead of bulldozing through it; because, inevitably, those feelings I fought so hard to minimize always come back to bite me in the a**. Cancer was no different.
In 2021, one month after turning 39, I received the call that forever changed my life. I had breast cancer. When I hung up, I didn’t cry right away. The first thought that ran through my head was, “Okay, now what.” At the time, my kids were ages 3 and 9, and my biggest concern was that I had to protect them from this awfulness.
And that’s when it all began…
I decided to be positive, stay positive and think nothing but positive thoughts.
Again, you might think that that’s not a bad way to be, especially when facing something as horrible as cancer. And it wasn’t. To this day, I believe my positive outlook hugely contributed to my success in beating the beast. But, on those days that I wanted to give up, the days I just wanted to spend the day in bed and cry myself into oblivion, I couldn’t. I had already gained the persona of being positive, upbeat and some people would say, an inspiration. And that was exhausting. I convinced myself that my cancer diagnosis was because I was meant for a greater purpose and that I had to turn this negative into a positive. So much so that I didn’t allow myself to feel the negative.
Being positive became such an automatic response that I didn’t really know how to act or respond differently. And the thing was, most people seemed to think that was okay. They’d say, “Wow, you’re such an inspiration,” or “You’re handling this with so much grace,” or something else along those lines. I know they meant well, but truthfully, I think they didn’t want to see it any other way. They didn’t want to see me suffering, and they didn’t want to know the mental and physical pain I was experiencing. And, if I’m being honest with myself, I didn’t want them to see that side of me either. Because then I wouldn’t be brave and inspiring anymore. And I definitely didn’t want to be seen as broken or weak.
Even now, nearly 3 years since I fought that battle, I feel guilty… guilty because I didn’t write the next great awe-inspiring book on how I beat cancer through the power of positivity. Guilty that I survived when so many others didn’t, and yet, here I sit living the same life I did pre-cancer. And mentally exhausted from trying for so long to be the person that everyone else sees me as being.
So newly diagnosed me…feel everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do anything but fight for your survival, because that already is more than anyone should have to do. And once it’s all done, don’t feel guilty because you made it through to the other side. Just take a deep breath and let the warm tears roll down your cheeks. And find something joyful in each extra day you’ve been given on this earth.
I truly am thankful for all those who supported and continue to support me through my cancer journey. And for those that push me to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday. Especially my children – their strength and resilience inspires me every day.
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