Holding onto the “gifts” of Cancer

I have always loved the start of the New Year. The thought of a clean slate, a new year to achieve ambitious goals and the belief that this is the year I really will loose those 20 lbs. Since my treatments for breast Cancer concluded near the end of 2015, this New Year takes on even more significance as it really is a fresh start for me, a redo of 2015 so to speak.

I had originally planned to publish this post last week and in all honesty, I have written it, and rewritten it at least a dozen times. I wanted to write a final post about my year fighting cancer. I wanted and needed closure and since so many of you have followed me on my journey I wanted to neatly wrap everything up. I find myself though with so many mixed emotions that I have been struggling to put my thoughts it into words.

At first I thought I would write about the importance of pursuing big goals. Many of the designers and business coaches I look up to and admire have been posting about “reaching for the stars” and “stepping out of your comfort zone” in 2016.

The thing is, I did that at the start of 2015. I wrote down big lofty goals for both my business and my personal life. A few weeks ago though when I looked over my “reach for the stars” goals for 2015, nowhere did I see “get Breast Cancer”on the list. Nope, loose half a breast, have chemo and endure painful, unconventional radiation treatments wasn’t on there either. Sometimes, just getting through a single day became my goal for much of 2015.

best of times

Then I thought I would write about how life is short and how important it is to cease the day and all that. Don’t postpone doing things on your bucket list until tomorrow because tomorrow might never come. This too, seemed good in theory or while I was sitting in the chemo chair looking at Instagram photos of someone I follow who was trekking across the Far East. The reality is, it takes money, planning, support at home and time to do something big like this. It is certainly possible but as the saying goes, “easier said than done”.

Life is short

So, what I do want to share is something much simpler and it the gifts of Cancer.

The first time I met with my Oncologist she told me that after recovery, most of her Cancer patients tell her that Cancer was the best gift they ever received. At that moment, sitting in her office crying, I couldn’t imagine how missing almost a year of my life, enduring torturous treatments and worrying my family and friends as I did could ever be thought of as a “gift”.

Now that it is all behind me though I “get it”. If you open yourself up to the lessons of Cancer it really does come with gifts.

Here are my three biggest gifts from Cancer and my single goal for 2016 is to hold on to each and every one of them.

The gift of Joy: I felt more joy during my Cancer year than I could ever have imagined.  The offer of a warm blanket during chemo or an unexpected card, text or visit from a friend sparked more joy than if I had landed the biggest client of my life. Believing that I would be cured and knowing that a mammogram that I had originally planned on cancelling saved my life gave me a new appreciation for the life I currently had. Things that once bothered me, like a long line at Starbucks, seemed so silly now. In fact, I actually felt joy waiting in line because I took in my surroundings and the people in line with renewed interest. I studied the colors on the walls and took note of the smells and sounds and watched the baristas work. I became 100% present in my daily life more so than I think I ever have before. Cancer caused me to truly stop and “smell the roses”. I was alive standing in that line and that in itself brought me pure joy.

The gift of Focus: When I was first told I had a very aggressive form of Cancer what truly mattered in my life came into sharp focus. Things that I spent so much energy thinking about before my diagnosis became insignificant. Sitting there in the chemo chair or while laying face down on the radiation table, I never once thought about my marketing strategy, my blog stats or our out dated kitchen. What I did think about was my family, my friends, my love of nature, my passion for photography and art and my love of travel. These are the things I plan to focus on in 2016. They may not be big lofty goals but these are the things that bring me joy and that in the end these are the things I want to look back on.

The gift of Self Confidence: When I was finished with all my treatments and declared Cancer free, I felt like Superwoman for what I had gone through. My tolerance for self doubt and my perceived short comings such as my appearance, my age, my design schooling (or lack of) is close to zero. Things that used to frighten me like public speaking or truly putting myself out there now seem like a piece of cake.

Since childhood I have strongly disliked attention of any kind. Posting images of my photography or my decorating work was scary and extremely uncomfortable for me and I had to force myself to do it. Surviving Cancer has put things in a new perspective and banished a lot of this fear. It gave me the courage to participate in and actually enjoy doing the One Room Challenge. Not only did I expose myself with my decorating but it was my own home which for me was even more intimidating.


Today I am Cancer free. 2016 is fresh start and my possibilities are limitless. The one thing I don’t want is to allow Cancer to define me. Like it or not, I will always be referred to as a “survivor” and every survivor is impacted in a different way. Some end up dedicating their lives to Cancer awareness and “the cause” and that is admirable for them. I on the other hand choose not to dwell on the past. Worries about whether it will come back or what might have caused my Cancer will always be in the back of mind but I have accepted it happened, it’s over and now I want to move on and put it all behind me.

I do not want to be known as the decorator/blogger who had cancer. Instead, what I strive for going forward is to be the decorator/blogger who is filled with Joy, Focus, and Self Confidence.

mandelaHappy New Year my friends and may 2016 be our best year yet! I know without a doubt I am going to make it so. Who’s with me?

life is short

27 Responses to Holding onto the “gifts” of Cancer
  1. Allyson Paris Reply

    Beautiful thoughts, well-said. So glad to ‘see’ you healthy and feeling strong and confident. Best wishes to you for a happy and healthy year and continued joy and confidence!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so very much Allyson!

  2. Nancy Powell Reply

    Linda this is the perfect post and so beautifully stated. It is one I will reference often as it amplifies whats truly important in life. Congratulations on being cancer free and I look forward to spending time with you again at market. You are truly inspiring and a beautiful woman and friend. Celebrate more in 2016 and may you have the best year yet! Xoxo

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Nancy. I am so happy you are in my life and Market will be even more special this year. BTW..edit is done. Happy New Year!

  3. Sherry franklin Reply

    We’ve never met. I started following you on Pinterest, then we became FB friends. I remember the post when you shared your cancer diagnosis; through the last year, you’ve continued on-and that has been inspiring. Cancer was a chapter in your life; it is done! Your thoughts are so well written that i predict your post will gain a lot of views— many more than you can imagine. We say “Happy New Year” with ease and not much thought; in your case, it brings new definition! You rock!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Sherry. Your comment means so much to me. It’s funny how even though we have never met, I do feel our connection even if it hasn’t been in person. Thank you for taking the time to comment and I wish you and yours a very Happy New year!

  4. Kim Macumber Reply

    Beautiful sentiments from an amazingly beautiful woman. I feel blessed to have you in my circle of friends and you have taught me so much about strength and courage Linda. 2015 didn’t define you … You defined it! Much love!

  5. Sarah Hepburn-Smith Reply

    Linda – what a wonderful post! And I love how you shared the “gifts” of cancer – so true. Best wishes for 2016!!

  6. Karen Davis Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful post Linda! Wishing a happy and healthy New Year!

  7. Ann M. Morris Reply

    You have brought tear to my eyes. You are saying what I am thinking. I admire you sooooo much. I wish I could be as articulate as you. I am working on it. Maybe one of these days we can meet.
    If I learned one thing “DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF”

    May 2016 bring health, love and peace.

  8. Susan Silverman Reply

    You are so lucky that you are able to put your thoughts to paper. I wish I was able to do that but I don’t have that gift. I’ve followed your journey and it is with a heavy heart that it reminded me of mine almost 15 years ago. Cancer has also given me a gift and that is to take nothing for granted and live your life the way you want to. I also have the most beautiful family that now includes 4 grandsons. I wish you good health for the coming year and always, and again I so admire your courage and strength for sharing your journey. I know 2016 will be a good year!

  9. Kerry Steele Reply

    Linda, this is such a beautiful reminder to us that life is a gift and it would be sad if we could never get past the things that don’t matter.

  10. Anya Jensen Reply

    Dearest Linda,
    What beautiful words – and a great message for everyone to remember the important things in life. I admire you and your courage. I am so pleased to have had the pleasure of your company in New York. I will go back and visit that bridge one day, and I will think of you when I do. Keep strong and keep going 🙂
    Many hugs from Denmark
    Anya xx

  11. Linda Sewell Reply

    Great, thought provoking words Linda.
    Nothing beats peace and joy!

  12. Deborah Main Reply

    What a beautiful message unique to you Linda and your own personal experience and outlook on life. Thank you for sharing!! Because life is in the details, the joy, the love, family, friends, the imperfect, the present and more….and you articulated that so well my friend. Wishing you a year full of sharing your joy and new confidence with others. Love you! xoxo♡ Deborah

  13. Jil Sonia McDonald Reply

    What a lovely post, and a lovely way to start a new year!
    2015 is gone and I’m so happy you have put it all past you. We wish you an absolutely wonderful 2016 – full of love, laughter and fun. Let’s frolic!

  14. Kathleen Reply

    Linda- I just love this post! So inspirational and heart-felt❤️ I can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks!!! Xox, K

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kathy! Counting down the days till Vegas!

  15. nirma Reply

    Linda, Your words are as gracious as you are. Thank you for sharing what you have learned this year. The lessons are precious and so worth remembering especially this time of year when the world encourages us to run faster and jump higher. Being truly present and in the moment is such a gift to give to yourself and to give back to the world. Thank you my friend and may God bless you with continued good health and a beautiful new year.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Nita, you are so awesome and I am so grateful for your love and support. Thank you so much for everything!! Happy 2016 to you, Curt and the family.

  16. Donna Quinlan Reply

    Linda- I just came across your post and did not know about your battle with cancer last year. I am so glad to hear you are now healthy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about what is really important in life. I wish you a wonderful, happy, healthy 2016!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Donna. It’s all behind me know and I look forward to a healthy 2016. Happy New Year and I wish you health and happiness in 2016 as well.

  17. Beth Frede Reply

    Linda, this is just beautiful. It’s a gift to see how this experience has opened you up to new aspects of yourself. Kudos for taking away the important lessons from a frightful challenge and for sharing them so authentically. Love to you and your family!

  18. Flo Reply

    Absolutely love this post Linda and the idea of being present. Thank you for sharing your story and wisdom. Cannot wait to spend time with you in Vegas!



    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Flo! Counting down the days till Vegas when I will give you a big hug!!

  19. Sheila Reply

    Your post highlights that you are ‘winning at life’ not “fighting cancer.” I believe gratitude pulls us through so many trials — even those that can only be carried, not fixed.
    Sending you a virtual hug.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Sheila! I so appreciate your comment. Wishing you health and happiness in 2016!

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