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I wanted to share a personal story about a loved one I have lost to breast cancer. I’m hoping that by sharing this story, I can inspire someone out there to not give up.
Cancer. A word we all dread. The first time cancer ever meant something to me was when I was 13 years old. My nana, who was like a second mother to me, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Looking back now, it baffles me just how strong this woman remained throughout her entire battle. I never heard her complain. I never heard her say she was scared. She took the news and carried it on her shoulders, but never showed us just how heavy the burden was.
Looking back now, I wish she would have. Maybe if she told us she was scared, maybe if she told us she was in pain, we could’ve helped her fight harder.
My nana was diagnosed with breast cancer, was in remission, and then it returned. The second time around, the cancer was more aggressive than she was, and it spread to her lungs and lymph nodes and ultimately her brain. On my 14th birthday, we celebrated her life at her funeral.
I was angry.
Since then, just a little over 10 years later, I sit here and I wonder, “What could we have done better? How could we have saved her?” Although I’m a firm believer in God and that he takes us when it’s our time to go, I can’t help but wonder if we should have been more aggressive.
The simple answer is yes.
I’m not sure of all the options her doctor gave her when she was diagnosed, but I do know that she opted in for chemotherapy. But what about a mastectomy? I know her breasts were a part of her body (ultimately, a part of her), but what if I would’ve told her I’d still love her anyway. With or without breasts. Would things be different? Would that have changed her mind?
I’ve had so many conversations with my mother about Nana. Did she do everything in her power to get rid of this cancer? What did we miss? Why did she lose her battle? There’s no simple answer. In fact, I could never accurately infer what really happened. All I know, is that if we had to do it again I’d tell her to be intentional with her living and to fight back against this deadly disease with everything she has!
How to Live Life on Purpose When You’re Affected by Cancer
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or a loved one has, we all know it doesn’t just affect one person. It affects your whole tribe. It’s easy to get down on yourself and want to give up on life, but that’s the most important thing to remember: You can’t give up. You have to keep going and live life on purpose.
Although I don’t always feel empowered or plan on becoming a cancer advocate, I found strength in following a few simple life rules after I lost my nana to cancer. I want to share with you 8 ways to live life on purpose after cancer:
8 Ways to Live Life on Purpose After Cancer
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know just how short life can be. Therefore, I don’t waste time on things (or people) that don’t add value to my life.
2. Cherish your loved ones. If you have a really strong tribe, love them. Check in with them. Pick up the phone and call them. Tell them you’re thinking of them when you’re thinking about them. Our time is limited on this earth. Never miss a day telling your loved ones you love them.
3. Don’t let your experience keep you from living. Cancer has an easy way of sucking the life out of you. Some days you’re going to feel pretty crummy, but on those days that you’re not, embrace it. Sign up for a class you’ve always been interested in. Go on a hike in the middle of nowhere and watch the sunrise.
4. Dance (and sing!) like no one is watching. It’s okay to be silly and happy. So just go ahead and do it. It’s good for your soul.
5. Enjoy every little moment. I enjoy everything. Seriously. Every bite of food, drink, kiss from my hubby . . . everything! You don’t know when it’s going to be your last. So savor it.
6. Be adventurous. Do things that scare the crap out of you. Why? Because they remind you that you’re still here.
7. It’s OK to reflect. You can’t truly appreciate how far you’ve come unless you look back on where you’ve been. But, remember it’s just a reflection. Don’t let it consume you.
8. Give back. Volunteer, give financially, get involved. There are so many amazing cancer organizations out there—especially the smaller grassroots movements.
Since the loss of my nana, I waste no time feeling sorry for myself or others, and I make sure every moment is spent making a positive impact on all those I encounter. It’s not about how much time you have—it’s about what you’re doing with that time. I choose to spend it making myself (and loved ones) happy.
f you’re going through (or have experienced) the effects of cancer, Pfizer has created This is Living with Cancer™, an initiative that shows the real stories of people living with cancer. As part of This is Living with Cancer, Pfizer has launched LivingWith™, a free mobile app designed to help patients and caregivers manage life with cancer and organize important information in one place.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.