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JOURNAL

How Cancer Changed Us – Wise Words from Our Community

February 24, 2021

Change is one of life’s only guarantees. It is something we all go through – sometimes happily, and often times, painfully and out of the blue. Many of us expend quite a bit of energy either making or avoiding change, yet ultimately, it catches up with us. In the end, being forced to bend and alter our realities is part of what makes us stronger, possess more resilience and gain perspective. Welcomed or not, change forces us to dig deep and discover parts of our character and heart we may not have known prior.

On the other side of cancer, through our In Her Words Journal series, our community shares how they’ve changed...in many ways, for the better. They show us that there can be beauty in change – that when we accept and embrace something new, either positive or negative, these life lessons have the potential of opening up a new realm. And that even when we’re facing something life-threatening and terrifying, there can be a glimmer of light, a silver lining, that emerges. So, in a moment when we’re all being forced (hopefully temporarily) to change our ways, we thought we’d offer their wise words as mantras of hope. Whether we’re new to facing illness, struggling with pandemic restrictions, or simply looking for an enlightened outlook, we hope their incredible wisdom provides inspiration.

Q:

How have you changed?

A:

“It feels like I continue to become more of who I truly am and less of who I am not.” – Mikiala Spadaro

“Cancer changed my life completely. It is a thief and has left so much heartbreaking loss in its wake. Loss that I continue to face daily. On the flip side, I love the life I have now after cancer. I have found my people and my life's purpose in helping women tell their breast cancer stories.” – April Stearns

“I have undeniably changed for the better through all of this. I think that is what these hurdles in life are for. To grow us as humans. To guide the direction of our life. I am healthier now. My husband is healthier. I feed my children with better foods. I removed toxic products from our home. We get outside more. My whole family is closer. I even feel that I have more passion for things in life. So cancer is scary and awful and I wish it would just go away but I am also super grateful for who I am because of what I went through!” – Sara Reed

“I’m reaching for those dreams more than I ever did before – I bought my first home, I ran my first marathon (NYC 2018, one year after finishing treatment). I’m dating and hoping to find the love of my life. I’m just hoping, generally, about so much more than I ever did. Oh, and I went up a cup size too!” – Jen Hodson

“For much of my adult life as a stay-at-home mom, I struggled for validation, feeling that I should be doing more. The outpouring of love and support that has lifted me up through this journey showed me that my value as a person is not dependent on some future accomplishment. I know now that my life has value just the way it is, that I am enough today and every day. It is a beautiful, calming realization, and I am filled with gratitude.” – Ellen Hall Saunders 

“I realized the beauty in life, and I have now committed myself to showing other women how to make their health, both physical and mental, a priority.” – Christmas Hutchinson

“I have such a deep gratitude for this precious life. I believe every day we are alive is a gift – and I never take it for granted. When we can approach life from a place of gratitude and abundance our hearts will be full.” – Lauren Chiarello Mika 

“There were years where I felt trapped by grief. Taking my health, into my own hands was the first step I took towards a happier future. Although I know I can’t fully escape my fear of cancer – or the worry as to whether I’ve passed a hereditary mutation on to my daughter – and I may never feel truly at home in my altered body, I believe that I am a better person than I was before all of this. I have newfound compassion, empathy and patience for myself, and those around me. I am dedicated to feeling alive in whatever way that takes shape – travel, meeting new people, spending quality time with loved ones. If I do end up having a short life, I know that I did the most important things to the best of my ability.” – Kristen Carbone

“Breast cancer absolutely changed me. It showed me the importance of being still. The importance of being intentional about slowing down the busy, fast-paced, social media-driven world that so often enslaves us and steals us from seeing all the beauty around us. During my treatment, I was forced to spend hours sitting on my patio watching the birds, and now, I have an appreciation and a connection with nature that I never had before. There are so many lessons God desires to teach us if we will only slow down, watch and listen. Breast cancer has also taught me that, “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” We will have trials in our lives. We will face difficult times, but I know that there is hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding!” – Jamie Dahl 

“Before my diagnosis, I was a gym rat, workaholic, and helicopter mom who kept a super clean house. Now, I don’t work out as hard, but I make sure I get some form of exercise daily – that might include yoga, stretching or walking. I learned to take more family vacations, date nights and girls’ trips. Since my diagnosis, I’ve gone to Cabo, Jamaica, Hawaii and visited other local cities. I learned to relax a little and enjoy the moment. My house is not super clean, but it’s lived in. I had to learn to let go and stop sweating the small stuff.” – Shaunell Robinson

“I feel much more open, accepting and thankful of what comes my way. I have been one of those people that hates to make mistakes (even small, minuscule mistakes) - I try very hard to not mess up. Ever since finishing radiation and essentially making peace with what my body has gone through, I have noticed that I am radically open to making mistakes. And it’s actually quite a relief to not be so hard on myself.” Whitney Fisher-Doyle 

"I think I'm still figuring that out and could potentially have Post Cancer PTSD, but I would say that I'm more intense or filter-less at times. I want to stay connected to people much more and try to be better about reaching out and keeping in touch. I am also more free with giving compliments or lending an ear. Physically, I am more tired from the experience and stress of it all. My body hurts a lot. I still have chemo fog. Cancer did change my idea on what I wanted to do for a career. My marriage ended during cancer. I knew I would need to reenter the workforce. Prior to being a stay at home mom, I worked in the corporate world for 17 years. I did not want to return to that. I wanted to stay connected to the cancer community somehow, so that is how I ended up tattooing nipples. It feels good to have the final hand in a reconstruction. I like listening to women’s cancer stories. We all just want to be heard." – Monica Haro

"With so many cancers in my family, with aging, with life, it’s not always easy to find peace – the definition I’m referring to here is free from disturbance or that quiet and tranquility one gets when at peace. With each new body ache, skin lesion, call from family, we await some kind of news. And so the work is to not get caught up in it – it (the fear, the lack of peace) exists but we don’t have to be attached to it. My priorities shifted. I try to not get so attached to the small or trivial stuff (which may only be recognized as trivial when we lift the veil), and I try to spend time on the things that bring me great joy. Life (in the thick of cancer, disease, mutations) can get very serious and isolating, so it's best to just let go in order to make space for peace and joy." – Bonnie Powers

“I am stronger as a person, and my relationships are deeper. I have more empathy, understanding that you never know what’s going on in other peoples’ lives, so it’s best not to judge. The person who cuts you off in traffic probably didn’t do it on purpose. Maybe they’re just distracted because they are dealing with a major life issue – like being diagnosed with cancer – so I cut them some slack.” – Patricia Haley

If you want to read more about our community’s journeys, you can read their complete In Her Words Journal stories here.

 "The only constant in life is change." – Heraclitus 

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