My Second Life

On this day 19 years ago I went to the operating theatre to have my left breast removed, it had developed a significant invasive cancerous tumour and it had to go! I am, as far as I know, in remission. I celebrate this day as my second birthday, the last 19 years as the second life I was given; and I try to use it well. So here are 19 of the things I have learned:

  1. There’s really no such thing as the “all clear”, I have given up explaining this but really no-one can be guaranteed “cancer free”, the correct term is “no evidence of disease”.
  2. I am still me, a work in progress but always me. Cancer didn’t take anything from me, I am not my disease. I am not “the one who had breast cancer” because I am so much more than that.
  3. Who I am is far more important than how I look.
  4. Who I am is a gazillion times more important that what anyone else thinks of me. Their judgement is about them, not me.
  5. Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. Lightning does strike twice or even more times. Heartbreak is a part of life, as long as you have love and joy, you will have grief and sorrow; but the love and joy will prevail and it is worth it. Oh, and cancer is a lottery – I didn’t `deserve’ it, no one deserves it. We constantly look for explanations but sometimes there just is no explanation. If you have been diagnosed, please, please know that it isn’t what you did or said or took or didn’t take. Yes, there are health risks and if you want to reduce yours and live a healthier life, please do – you will no doubt benefit but as the bible says “Todays burdens are enough for one day”, don’t add to your load with blame or shame.
  6. Everything changes, all the time, regardless of whether you want it to or don’t want it to. You are not in control, you cannot change it – accept it, go with it.
  7. Anything is possible, good and bad, so stay open that possibility.
  8. Perfection does not exist, you aren’t perfect and nor is anyone else. Your parents aren’t perfect, they are just doing the best they can and they know you aren’t perfect – they just want the very best for you and sometimes it comes out a bit twisted. But really, they love you just exactly as you are.
  9. As Maja Angelou says “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
  10. There are no bad feelings, just your feelings. Listen to them, let them tell you what they mean. You are not your feelings, but they are important.
  11. I tried to say this better but couldn’t, so take it away Emily Dickinson
    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul
    And sings the tune without the words
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land.
    And on the strangest sea,
    Yet never in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.
  12. Count your blessings, gratitude has been proven to improve well being and it’s a great practice to get into.
  13. Forgive and send love to everyone, especially those who don’t seem to deserve it – they are usually the ones who need it the most.
  14. You can do it, even in the fiercest storms of your darkest days – you are stronger than you know.
  15. Breathe deeply, practice slowing and deepening your breathing as a means to steadying yourself when life churns you up a bit.
  16. As the wonderful Matt Haig says “notice the beauty”, look around you, there is always something to appreciate.
  17. Everyone has something to teach you.
  18. Learning is a wonderful gift, stay curious, ask questions and listen.
  19. Love is everything – to love and be loved.