Surviving cancer helped shine the light on my five most important possessions.
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.
Let’s face it – we are all human, and what do humans love? Possessions. You don’t have to be materialistic or anything to the extreme, but possessions are a part of who we are. We all have things we love, cherish and can’t live without. Sometimes those things change over time depending on the things that happen in our lives. As kids, our bicycle might be our most important possession. As adults that may change to a car. You may not value that antique vase you have stored away until the relative that gave it to you passed away.
For me, I started thinking about what really mattered to me after I went through cancer. That list changed quite drastically when the most important things I owned were almost stolen away. I think about this list more and more every day and how much every single thing means to me.
1. My life – This should be a no-brainer at any point, but sometimes it is taken for granted until it is threatened. Seven years ago, cancer tried to steal it and I fought with all my might to keep it. I think about it every day. Sometimes I get mad at myself for “wasting” it before I got sick. I know I didn’t waste it per se, but I certainly didn’t cherish it the way I believe I should have. I don’t remember living it to its fullest until I was afraid I wouldn’t get to keep it. I remember saying time and again that I would do something later instead of enjoying that moment right then and there.
No longer do I push stuff aside that I really want to do to make room for the mundane. And I do my best to live in that moment and not look too far into the future. Enjoying today has quite a different meaning now.
2. My health – Up until those words, “You have cancer” were spoken to me, I took advantage of my health. I totally expected to live disease free for as long as I had on this earth. I also didn’t feel the need to take care of myself quite as much because in my eyes, I was invincible. Health was the easiest thing I had, and I figured I didn’t have to do much to keep it. Cancer can really stick a fork in that thought. No longer do I take my health as a given. I know some things are out of my control, but there are plenty of other things I can do to make my health better, like eating well and exercising. Those are two points that changed after diagnosis. After all, you must take care of your most important possessions.
3. My heart – I mean the actual organ but more so, I mean what is part of my soul and makes up who I am. I consider myself a kind person and one who puts every effort after something I do. But again, my whole being was challenged after cancer. What comes along with heart is courage and strength, two important characteristics that got me through the worst moments of my life. I like to keep those close now and use them during the best moments, too.
4. My sanity – This is such an important possession of mine. I almost lost it – not during cancer, but much later. I have struggled so much with my emotions long after I finished my cancer treatment. I felt like my sanity was still in a constant battle with the cancer demons and for a while, the demons were winning. I was hanging on to my sanity by a thread. I never considered sanity a possession until it almost escaped me. I still struggle, but I am learning how to fight back. There is no way those demons are taking one of my most important possessions.
5. Myself – Learning to love who I am has become one my all-time favorite gifts. I got to know myself during my battle with cancer. I am sad to say I didn’t know who I was for the longest time. Was I brave or a coward? Was I strong or was I weak? How would I handle a real challenge, and what would I do in that battle? All those questions were answered for me in the seven years I have lived as a survivor. I have my ups and downs but I know who I am and I know what I can do in a battle of my life.
I think about my five possessions every day. I carry them with me and show them off whenever I can. They mean everything to me and they are the driving forces that lead my way through this road of cancer survivorship.