I’ve channeled my cancer-related anger into advocacy, and made a “living list” of things I want to accomplish.
Four years ago, my life forever changed because of breast cancer. Not just the typical breast cancer, but the kind that kills you. It’s not the kind of breast cancer that marketing believes we can “beat,” or pink ribbons represent. This cancer kills, and it’s killing so many of us. It’s killing our women rapidly, and we don’t know how to stop it.
This upsets me, and is the sole reason why I continue to advocate for women, stage 4 breast cancer and research.
My therapist tells me how I am extremely positive in dealing with my cancer, anxiety, trauma and grief, and that I should be aware of my anger, frustrations and fear and let these feelings out in a “healthy” manner. It’s not that I don’t, but I refuse to let my anger put me closer to dying. Refusing to let this cancer halt my life any more than it has (and will) is why I refuse to stay angry for long.
Turning anger into advocacy is what gives me satisfaction that I am doing something... and living.
Turning anger into advocacy for me is a mix of the following:
Writing for cancer platforms has greatly helped me find joy and advocacy. It has given me a creative outlet I never had before. Journaling, expressing and vocalizing my experiences has been such a gift of healing itself, as well as knowing it is helping someone. Writing also helps me clarify feelings and remember what has happened to me, as my own “Dory brain” will fail me. I will be forever grateful for such writing opportunities.
Volunteering and fundraising have been always in my blood prior to cancer. However, after my own experience with the disease, there isn’t a comparable fight elsewhere than your own. My ode for living here is that any effort and any amount of money raised is better than doing nothing.
I’ve been given a second chance at life, so I will devote my spare time to helping fight for others. Despite having a hip impingement, I walked 30 miles in Hilton Head, South Carolina for breast cancer because I did not want to go home saying I stopped at mile 20 and let myself down. Living is also my way of carrying my old self with my new self, through volunteering, and fighting for others.
Whenever I meet a new warrior, no matter their cancer, I always apologize for their fight, because my heart hurts for them. The experience of those words, “You have cancer” will always remain cemented within me. Yet, it gives me the words to say, “I’ve walked in your shoes, which may become worn with holes, and you may even lose both shoes, but you will stand on your feet at the end of this sucky road.”
Side effects are awful, and if I can make their experience any better, and be sensitive, they are at least better off.
Team Sunshine, my warrior cheerleader group beside me, has been incredibly supportive and quite the audience of awareness during the last four-plus years. By having a CaringBridge website where they can stay up to date on my path(s) and treatments, so many of them have told me how much they have learned from this openness, vulnerability and place to ask questions. Thus, it’s created so much awareness around breast cancer, cancer diagnosis itself, stage 4 disease, caregiving, and so on.
Team Sunshine has been my own form of healing, and living because they all support me inside and out; it’s real love. If you need help, they give, and they give so warmly. I can only hope as they need support and kindness, I can continue to be joy, warmth and support.
Lastly, my own form of living and beating the odds, focuses on getting “busy living” instead of “busy dying. ”I don’t call it a bucket list, but it’s my “Living List”. Matthew McCaughey always said, “keep on ‘livin,’” (no g), and it just stuck with me. Who cares about the “g,” because it's your life to live.
My list includes:
My inner soul has needed so much daylight back into its channels. Cancer brought so much darkness, fear, anxiety and sadness that I needed to find a way back to my old me and blend new me into it.
Livin’ has really come about in last two years, because I finally figured out what I wouldn’t let cancer do: steal my sunshine.
Everyday, I’m just going to keep on livin’, stay busy livin’, and beating those odds. Everyday, I’m going to find my daylight, my sunshine and my joy.
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