Mid-Year Reflections

New Year's Resolutions tend to get lost in the shuffle as the year progresses. Looking back at my list, halfway through the year, I see my cancer fighting soldiers are still in my corner.
PUBLISHED August 10, 2015
Dana Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at the age of 32. She is the co-founder of a cancer survivorship organization called The Dragonfly Angel Society. She volunteers as an advocate and mentor, focusing on young adults surviving cancer. She enjoys writing about life as a cancer survivor, as well as connecting survivors to the resources, inspirations and stories that have helped her continue to live her best life, available at www.dragonflyangelsociety.com.
I was standing on the balcony level of a Chicago bowling ally watching the numbers on the TV screen count down: 10, 9, 8, 7......1.  Happy New Year! 2015 had finally arrived. While everyone was hugging, kissing, yelling, throwing confetti and doing everything else to celebrate 2015, I stood in the corner reflecting. I wanted this year to be different. I wanted to make resolutions that I would remember. I wanted resolutions that would be more than the typical ones I almost always find on my list. Those include saving more money, losing weight, cutting out caffeine, etc. OK, don't get me wrong, I want to do those things but those are things that are always on my list. I needed to focus on chain that had my mind occupied for the last five years.  That chain is not made of metal, but of five very convincing letters: C-A-N-C-E-R. It's a short chain, but boy is it strong!

As I stood in that corner of that New Year's celebration, iPhone in hand, streamers and confetti flying, my fingers started to do the talking on my resolution list. The ideas flowed faster than I could grab them and slap them down on that email to myself. That was the email I promised myself I would look at when the year was half over and more than likely, I was back in my old routine ways. I didn't want to call them resolutions because some were just that but the list was more than that really. They were "pre-flections" on the year to come. That's not a real word, I know, but it's my way of describing the year before it even gets started. I wanted the list to be reflections on a new year before it happened. So, the word resolution was thrown out and replaced with reflections. Here is my original list that was born on January 1, 2015:

REFLECTIONS ON A NEW YEAR
  • You made it another year
  • You made it another year. Others were not as fortunate.
  • Enjoy life.
  • Enjoy every minute.
  • You deserve to be happy.
  • You deserve to be healthy.
  • You deserve to be free.
  • Don't let others (anything for that matter, including cancer) get in your way of what you want in life.
  • Don't let a relationship affect who you are — to yourself and/or to others.
  • Life is good.
  • Happy.
  • Healthy.
  • Believe.
Looking through the list now just as I had six months ago, I feel the same strength in those words as I did when I typed them out at 12:06 a.m. on New Year's Day. For me, it is talking to my beliefs on cancer. It is talking to my cancer anxiety and it is overpowering that cancer chain that latched on to my mind. What I like about my list is it is a reminder list. It is a list of things that anyone can do whether you had cancer or not. All of us should think about these things and act as they want us to. Don't we all deserve to be happy, healthy and free? If you are fighting cancer today, you deserve that.  If you finished cancer treatment and cancer has long since been out of your life, you deserve those things. If you never fought cancer, you deserve to be happy, healthy and free. You made it another year, no matter what you faced in the past. Others were not so fortunate and again, that doesn't mean it was cancer that robbed them of 2015, as it could be anything.

I am not trying to bring everyone down by any means. I am trying to remind myself and others, that you need to be happy with where you are today no matter what. You need to remember the cheering you might have done or seen others do all around you on New Year's Day. That joy can be with us every day and it is so much more than accomplishing a list of resolutions. It's creating reflections with every day that passes.  It's creating "pre-flections" before the next day begins.

This is the first time I did a list like this as opposed to my usual resolution list and I have found that I go back to this list often. That's more than I can say of my past resolution lists. I usually forget about them by 12:08 a.m. on New Year's Day. This list is something special. It has helped to keep my anxiety about my cancer returning a little further out. The cancer chain attached to my mind has become a little looser, a little weaker as well.  Sometimes following this list is much harder than I anticipated. Sometimes I am scared to enjoy life too much because what if it is taken from me?  As soon as I have that thought, I move further down on the list and read 'you deserve to be happy, healthy and free' and my mind goes back to fighting that cancer anxiety and I continue on with my day. 

My advice is simple. Build a list of reflections and keep them close. Keep them as a reminder. Keep them as a shield. Cancer can't break them and certainly can't penetrate their walls. Pull out your reflections whenever you need them and celebrate them at 11:59 p.m., as those numbers are counting down, as the confetti is ready to be releasaed and as 2016 is getting ready to introduce itself for the very first time.
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