What Cancer has taught me
I've been on the Cancer train for quite some time now, on and off, but mostly on. And my goodness has this really taught me some of the most valuable things in life. For me, this has been going on for three years now so I've had a lot of time to work through these life lessons and really learn so much about life itself. It has been a long winded journey and I wanted to share some things that I have and will continue to learn along the way.
In no particular order...
Live in the moment
Ok, this is so corny and easier said than done! I know before cancer I would try adapt this motto and it would last a day then I would bounce right back into the rat race and continue NOT living in the moment. However, after facing some near death experiences, having to plan my own funeral and constantly having a life threatening disease live in the back of my head...this motto really sticks to you and I am so grateful for it. It took me a while to learn how to live this way and how to make decisions based on this but once I started I could not imagine living my life any other way. I used to make 2-5 year plans and just put all my focus on the future that I stopped being present. You stop living and enjoying the moments you have now, you make life altering decisions based on something you want to happen in 3 years time. Don't get me wrong, I still have goals for my future, but I look at these goals differently. I look at it in a way to keep myself aligned and focused on living the best life I can. I don't set these goals as achievements, I look at them as a way of making sure I am living a purposeful life, being alive not just surviving in this world.
This is a new one for me. I had one of those cancer epiphanies a few weeks ago where I had to start asking myself some really tough questions and this stuck out a lot to me. As a 31 year old female I am in the prime of societies pressures and life directions. These directions are put in place and if you don't necessary follow suite you start to feel like you're less, like you're failing at life, like you need to 'sort your shit out.' I am single, I have no kids, I have no job, I don't own a home and I have only a small amount of savings. Society looks at this like a massive train wreck! Like someone who is so lost, doesn't have any motivation or goals in life and will be miserable. Little does society know that Ive had to press pause on my life and focus purely on getting better.
But lets look at it differently...Lets look at it through my new pair of eyes. I for one am glad I am on this journey as a single girl, I am able to put 100% of my focus on me, I am able to learn how to lean on myself through tough times, I am learning to love myself and I am learning to believe in me. I have stopped being so hard on myself and expecting to have it all together. I have started trusting my life's path and knowing that as long as I am happy, I have love for me and I lead a simple life filled with things and people I love, then my life is purposeful...to me, not society. I have blocked out exterior influences that say I have to live a certain way in order to be happy. No, I am living it my way and I have never been happier. Honestly, my life can be pretty dire at times and so uncertain but I have never felt this kind of happiness and content, ever. I've been living a life based on societies principles and constantly feeling like I am in a rut because the life I was told to live goes against my grain. Then I get Cancer and decide I want to live my life differently because it is so precious and all of a sudden I am the happiest I've ever been.
Some may look at my life like I have no direction or idea but it all makes sense to me and thats all that matters. I want my life to consist of working on things that I love, that might mean I have multiple job titles and don't work a 9-5 stable job with a stable income but ill make it work, because it means something to me. I don't want to feel forced into a relationship because 'I'm getting old.' I feel so much joy within myself that I am happy being here, if someone special wants to join me and share my life than thats amazing but I will not spare it just because society says I need to be in a relationship or wanted in order to be a someone. I can't have kids, I am infertile due to treatment, this was hard to come to terms with but I have started looking at other ways I can nurture something, love something (me, life) unconditionally, watch something grow (my career/work/blog). There are other ways I can channel a higher love and thats what I will do.
I had to add this in here for obvious reasons. My health has always been up and down. I've gone through periods of hating my body (again, societies influence) even though I was slim I would try every crash diet possible. Through University my diet was atrocious! Eating at oddly hours, out of the vending machine, tones of coffee and energy drinks. Once I hit about 25 I started focusing a bit more on what I was eating and exercising. I would go through phases of drinking a fair bit of alcohol and would often fall off the band-wagon diet wise but I started to take an interest in nutrition. After being diagnosed with Cancer, my diet and mental health were the first thing I looked into. Cancer and diet, what a worm hole! Three years on I have finally learned that not one size fits all and you really need to peel back all the layers and listen to your body. I am truly amazed at what the body asks for and when. Now days I am so in-tuned with my diet and what my body is asking for. I constantly crave oranges! I can't get enough of them and this is because Im low in Vitamin C and my immune system is in overdrive. A lot of the time I will crave bone broth soup or Pho and its because I need the iron and minerals. Sometimes all I want is fruit salad for dinner. Ive really adapted this way of eating and educating myself with things you should try avoid during treatment (processed sugars, diary, alcohol etc) and I implement those but try keep my diet super simple and stress free.
My mental health is a huge one. This has not been an easy journey. Its probably been more tough on me mentally than physically. I don't have too many bad days, Im generally very happy and calm but there are some days, I especially experience these in my hospital stays where I feel so overwhelmed. I could cry and cry and cry. I've found ways to help cope and make sure it doesn't pull me down. Ive learned what makes me tick, what makes me happy, who makes me feel uneasy, who makes me feel instant joy. Ive learned what ignites that internal fire and I make sure to always feed it. I wouldn't have had to search for that within myself if it wasn't for my Cancer. Things that make me so happy are the days when Im in the kitchen, cooking, have music playing, doing art, going for a long drive, laughing with friends and family, feeling calm and relaxed. I try take all those things in and honestly, the simple the better. Learn to love the free things in life, like sitting on the beach, having a cup of coffee while you sit on your couch and stare out the window, going for a walk in nature. Its all there for you. Enjoy it.
This is getting very long so ill wrap it up here, even though I could go on and on about this stuff. If there is something I want you to take from this it's to push everything aside, peel back the layers that you've been wearing for years and really ask yourself what you want in life. Every day I say to myself "if this were my last day how would I want to spend it," and I let that influence how I live my life. I feed myself with the things that I love and enjoy and thats all that matters to me. My life has since felt so much lighter, so much brighter. I really feel like I can finally breathe and I am where I want to be.
See you in my next post