20 Things I Have Learned from My Cancer Journey

Mary Trouba, a patient with metastatic inflammatory breast cancer, talks about the 20 things she has learned on her own cancer journey.

Since being diagnosed with metastatic inflammatory breast cancer in November 2015, I have been writing about my experiences with cancer and cancer treatment as a way to grapple with the ways this journey touches my life. For me, it is a way of “metabolizing” my experience, of feeling at home in my own skin.

#1: Things can change at any moment.

#2: Hope is a choice.

#3: Statistics don’t tell you how your personal situation will unfold.

#4: You get to decide how much you want to disclose to others and how you want to deal with uncertainty.

#5: You change in subtle ways over time when you viscerally confront your mortality; you don’t suddenly become a completely different person.

#6: There are more people walking around with late stage cancer than you might realize, given ongoing advances in cancer research and treatment in recent years.

#7: The world of cancer treatment involves a mix of good news and bad news.

#8: A positive outlook includes feeling whatever it is you are feeling in the moment, and sometimes it makes sense to temporarily compartmentalize grief and anxiety and go back to them when it feels right.

#9: Doctors and nurses who work in oncology are very special people.

#10: You never know who will show up for you at a particular moment.

#11: Practical support means a lot.

#12: Friends and family who make you laugh are precious.

#13: Eyelashes have as much to do with how you look as does the hair on your head.

#14: A harmonious home environment soothes the brain during chemo fog.

#15: You feel better when you are well-hydrated.

#16: Doing what is important to you, no matter how eccentric or unimportant it might seem to others, is worth prioritizing.

#17: Grace is a gift— it visits at unexpected times.

#18: Images of angelic beings and spirit guides are hardwired into us as human beings.

#19: Dreams become more comforting as the journey progresses.

#20: The opportunity to be here on planet Earth is a big deal.