Summers in Minnesota fly by. That’s the nature of them. We grind away at months of winter, for a handful of beautiful, lake-weather weeks. The Summer of 1998 was no different. July 6th was when my cancer journey began. A few weeks ago, my family gathered once again on July 6th to mark 15 years since my battle with the C-word. Anyone I’ve talked to who has had cancer, or been through it with a loved one expresses a similar sentiment: cancer changes everything. In my experience, looking back 15 years, the sickness and pain aside, the change was for the good. Here’s what I’ve learned and here’s how cancer changed my life.
Take one day at a time: This quickly became our mantra during treatment. Often times it was our way of just focusing on what was immediately in front of us and not concerning ourselves with the clouds of “what-if”. Coincidentally it’s a handy mantra for life in general. Live in the moment and all that jazz.
Appreciate the small things: When your sick as a dog (I’ve never understand the origin of that phrase) most days, finding relief is often in the smallest things. A nurse who goes above and beyond(like the one who would bring us homemade Kuchen), a hospital meal that doesn’t make you nauseous, or a movie and a bowl of popcorn with the ones you love.
Remember to move: I hated it, but my mother was the voice of reason to force me up and get me moving everyday during treatment. Even if it was for only a few minutes. It served two purposes, the very moderate level of physical activity yes, but more importantly the psychological reminder that HEY YOU! You’re still alive, keep fighting. Still important 15 years later.
Focus on what you enjoy: Following cancer I wasn’t able to play many sports anymore. That was okay. I wasn’t ever any good at them. In high school, I found passion in the arts which led me into a media and communications career at a very young age and it’s been a wild ride ever since.
Let people know what they mean to you: Perhaps the most important change, remembering to always let the ones who matter the most to you, know exactly how you feel about them. Often times we’re far too introverted in sharing how we feel about people. Always take the opportunity to say thank you, I love you etc.
In all reality, the past 15 years flew by, as fast as a Minnesota summer. The memories of 1998 and my cancer battle are as vivid as if it were yesterday. So are the lessons I learned. And with any luck, the memories I made on July 6th, 2013 celebrating 15 years cancer free will be just as vivid.
Until next time,