Every year I’m reminded of my mortality…a little love note from death herself.
You see, I was diagnosed with cancer at age 6 (spoiler alert: I’m still alive). After a year spent navigating my way through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy…I was eager to return to school.
My enthusiasm quickly faded in the face of the name-calling I found waiting for me on the playground. That was the moment the seeds of shame that birthed my perfectionism were planted (read more about perfectionism and the dinosaur slide here). After that incident, everything changed. I vividly remember being so ashamed of how I looked and even more ashamed of my big red scar (no kid wants to be seen as “different”) so I never dared to wear a bikini and when I did MUCH later in life…I slathered on so much sunscreen I resembled a ghost.
The perfectionism that was planted that day eventually fueled a hectic professional lifestyle that led to finding lumps and ‘sketchy cells’ (where there shouldn’t be any) which thankfully all turned out to be nothing terrible. It DID end up being a wake-up call though.
A call to live intentionally and joyfully.
I’m reminded that life isn’t guaranteed when I go for my annual oncology check-ups. I’ve seen those dark circles on the scan (that eerily looked like Mickey Mouse ears) and knowing that I’m at a higher risk for breast cancer means that every.single.year death asks me if I love what I’m doing, if I’m fulfilled by what I’m creating, and if my days bring me joy.
Cancer can make you feel like everything is happening TO you. Which is true when you’re in the thick of it. You’re getting poked and prodded and squished and stabbed and you feel like you really don’t have any say in the matter. You put your trust in your medical team and pray for the best possible outcome – life.
But once you’ve made it through those oncology doors and are given the final “all clear” scan…you can start to reclaim your personal power. You can make the choice to change your life.
You can start to see how all of this happened FOR you…not TO you.
I can say now (hand on my heart) that I don’t look back on my journey with cancer as this horrible thing that happened to me. I can see the blessings it provided. It showed me how strong I am. It showed me my family’s strength and my community’s support. And it showed me that no matter what life throws at me – I’m built to last.
I’m not broken. I’m not weak. I’m not a victim. My scars are my battle wounds and I’m PROUD to wear them now (although I still apply sunscreen liberally).
The medical system is built to save you…to help you SURVIVE and most of the time they’re f*cking brilliant at it. #nothinbutgratitude Being a long-term survivor though, I felt there was something lacking. A clear path forward that helps turn a traumatic event into a glorious comeback.
That’s where I come in.
A diagnosis can flip your life around in an instant. Just like death. So how do you navigate your “new normal”?
First, you get in touch with your core values.
You grieve the losses you’ve stacked up so you can move forward.
You learn to open yourself up to the gifts (that “Holy sh*t, that was a close call, I best start living my life NOW” realization) that death has provided.
You ask for help and support as you begin your journey (and if asking for help is hard…I got you covered).
You find others with similar stories and gain inspiration and ‘I’ve been there too’ compassion.
You realize what’s truly NOT important in your life and you stop making time for it…and instead, make time for what matters to you.
Death is a part of life and sometimes we need these “close calls” to knock us back on our path because we haven’t been listening to the myriad of others signs we’ve been given. Because everything is connected. I’ve had clients whose relationship was in absolute chaos get diagnosed with cancer and when they ditched their toxic partner their cancer “magically” went away. Let me say it again, everything is connected. If it hasn’t happened to you I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people who were miserable and experienced a “come-to-Jesus” moment that inspired them to completely turn their life around. And now they’re thriving and excited about life again.
Death is waiting to give you that insight. But you can unpack her wisdom BEFORE she comes knocking at your door.
What dream is burning inside you?
What’s stopping you from going after it?
Do you dream of entrepreneurship but wonder if risking your cushy, pays-the-bills job will leave you living in a cardboard box by the highway?
Do you want to write a book but have no idea where to begin, how to publish and are not-so-secretly terrified that no one will read it?
Is there a trip-of-a-lifetime that you’ve been putting off because responsibilities and obligations are standing in your way?
Everything is figureoutable (thanks Marie Forleo!). When you choose to get ALIGNED with yourself and your core values you DON’T NEED a brush with death to spur you into action.
But it if has…it’s time to listen. Listen to your body. Listen to your heart. Listen to death. I’ll hold your hand and walk you through it all.
I know you are more than your diagnosis.
I know you are more than your scars.
I know you are more than your fears.
I see ALL of you. I see your WHOLE RADIANT being.
If you’ve forgotten your radiance, your wholeness, then I’d love to be a reflection for you. Cancer (or any loss) is just a chapter in your story. You get to choose the narrative that shapes it. You get to choose the meaning. Cancer leaves its imprint to be sure but it doesn’t have to define you.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” – Brené Brown