Sunday, March 8, 2015

Staying Positive

I've had a lot of people ask me how I've stayed so positive while dealing with my cancer diagnosis. The fact is that it's complicated. Some of it is that people don't see me at my worst, my breakdowns happen at night, after the kids have gone to bed and no one is around. That being said, the times I have broken down are pretty few and far between and I do feel like I have stayed overwhelmingly positive for the most part. Another part of it is that I am just temperamentally a happy person. I've always been a glass is half full kind of gal, I just don't know how else to be. So while I have times when I feel angry, or bitter or wonder at the unfairness of it, mostly having cancer has made me realize how grateful I am for all the positives. Having cancer gives you a whole new perspective on life and makes you look at things in new ways. Yes, it's a terrible experience to go through but there are lots of good things to take away from it too. Here is a list of positive things things that I have taken away from this experience. I'm sure there will be more learning and growing before it's all said and done too. I have a long way to go but there is so much to be thankful for already!

- Cancer made me give myself permission to take a break.
After Christmas this year I was feeling really burnt out. I had worked hard to host a holiday at my house for the first time. I was busy with two small children. I felt like all I did was clean all day long. I was exhausted, stressed and feeling overwhelmed. When I found out I had cancer things came to a screeching halt. I had no choice but to take a little bit of time for myself, I remember thinking how relaxing my MRI was because I got to lay still for 20 minutes without anyone demanding my attention. I still need to work on letting myself have breaks without feeling guilty but I have come a long way since Christmas! It has given me the excuse I needed to take better care of myself.

- Cancer has introduced me to new and wonderful people.
One of the things that has amazed me about this whole experience is how kind, brave and exceptional people can be. I have had so many strangers reach out to me, whether it be to lend a listening ear or just to give a small show of support by way of a hand squeeze or a hug. My doctors, nurses and fellow cancer patients (and survivors) all understand what I'm going through in a way that others can't. I have been in touch via email with some friends of friends who are cancer survivors and having them to listen to my problems has meant the world. I'm overwhelmingly grateful to the new people I've met who have helped me through this process and I'm utterly astounded by their generosity and kindness.

- Cancer made me realize what is really important to me.
Everyone needs the occasional wakeup call about their priorities, cancer will do that for you in a big way! I've been doing more soul searching and deep thinking since my diagnosis than every before. I've thought about big things like travel and career goals and thought about small things like how I want our family to function on a day to day level. I used to feel guilty about not wanting to go back to work after having my kids but the fact is that my family is my number one priority and they make me incredibly happy. My family is my job and I don't need to apologize for that. I'm also setting goals to do more traveling when the girls get older and maybe pick up my watercolors again in the near future. it's time for me to focus on what makes me happy and not worry about what others think.

-Cancer is humbling.
Nothing will help you realize how small you are in the grand scheme of things than going through cancer treatment. You feel out of control and powerless not to mention completely unattractive. Losing all your hair and having your breasts removed feels like the universe is taking everything that is at all feminine and attractive away from you and it is a truly humbling experience.  The bright side is that you realize just how little superficial things like looks matter though. I worried so much about how my two year old would react to my hair loss but you know what? She couldn't care less! I'm her mommy and she loves me and that's all that matters to her. I didn't like letting me husband see me without my hair either but he loves me unconditionally and thinks I'm beautiful inside and out, no matter what. It's nice to realize that there are things more important than looks and your loved ones care about you no matter what you look like. It's probably good to really understand that before I get old and wrinkly ;-)

- Cancer has made me appreciate the blessings in my life
As I said in the intro to this post, there is so much to be grateful for! I have so many things going for me in this situation and things are so much better than they could have been. I'm so grateful that I had two wonderful kids before this whole thing started since I won't be able to have any more kids after my treatment. I'm grateful for all my loving friends and family who have supported me through this ordeal. Especially I'm grateful to my parents for the many meals they've cooked for me and the many hours they've spent watching the kids while I am at appointments or not feeling well. I'm lucky that Eric has a great job that is letting him be flexible and take as much time off as he needs to help out with things. I'm also grateful to his job for providing us great insurance so we don't have money trouble on top of everything else. I'm glad that I am young and healthy aside from the cancer so that my body is well equipped to fight this off and handle my treatments. I have a lot going for me and I am really taking time to appreciate everything I have.

- Cancer has shown me who I can really count on in a crisis.
This whole thing has really shown me how truly awesome my friends are. I've gotten care packages, cards, emails, hot meals, and emails just to check on me. They have helped me track down donated breast milk when I had to stop breastfeeding and called just see how I'm doing. I'm blown away by their generosity and thoughtfulness. I have received so much love and true friendship from the people close to me and it's nice to know I have surrounded myself with such a great network of people. I only hope I can have to chance to be there for them in the way they have been there for me.

-Cancer has strengthened my relationships.
Adversity seems to bring you closer to your loved ones and this is no exception. I am gaining deeper and more meaningful relationships with the most important people in my life. I feel like it has brought me closer to my parents, my brother and my husband. We will get through this together and come out of it stronger than ever!

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