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.
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”.
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.