“It’s probably nothing” were the words swimming around inside my head on May 24 in 2007. I was walking into my doctors’ office to speak about some test results and although I had a knot forming in the bottom of my stomach, those were the words I was telling myself.
That was the day I learned that I had stage two cancer; my world changed dramatically. At first I was miserable asking the universe “why me?”. I went through countless hours of treatment that seem like years looking back now, but somehow I came through on the other side. I had one relapse three years later and miraculously, my body and the medicine fought that too.
Cancer is a different experience for everyone. There are parts of the battle that are just plain awful and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. But I wanted to share my story because by some stroke of luck I believe I came out the other side as a better person.
Cancer changed me for the better because it taught me things I probably wouldn’t have recognised or realised otherwise….
1. It taught me that lying to yourself or others doesn’t do any good
When I was first diagnosed I went into denial. I didn’t want people knowing about it and some days I would pretend I didn’t even have it. This only made me upset and even more depressed about the situation. But the day I decided to accept that this was my reality and I may as well get on with it instead of living in denial changed everything in the most positive way possible.
2. It taught me that fear is only as powerful as you let it be
The fear of dying was massive, especially through my relapse. But fear achieves nothing, living in fear doesn’t improve our lives it restricts us from enjoying what we can. The day someone told me to stop fearing the future and start living in the moment everything shifted – my attitude, my perceptions and my hope.
3. It taught me that value has absolutely nothing to do with money
For so long I was someone who thought everything with “value” could be purchased with a dollar. It took going through this to realise that value was so much more than that. Real value was the support from friends and family. Value was having a friend there to take you to appointments, help you clean and laugh along with you when the chips were down. Value was having something to be thankful for every day. Value was in everything around me that you couldn’t buy.
4. It taught me that those people around you are more important than we give them credit for
My family and friends were amazing. I always loved them and appreciated them, but it took this to realise just how lucky I was to have them around me. It’s a battle that you really can’t go through alone and it made me appreciate the people in my life more than ever.
It’s fair to say that I took many things for granted for a large part of my life. I’ve definitely been in the second half of my life for a while now and the change in who I am has been huge since going through cancer.
Everyone has a different journey, some struggle more than others, some are barely affected. There is no correct way to deal with it and no one has found the perfect way to manage it yet, but this is my story and I hope that no matter your cancer journey, you’ve come out a stronger person too.
Tell us, how has cancer affected your life?