Breast Cancer Taught Me to Love Myself


Breast cancer makes you wiser and more mature, but it also opens your heart to see that love is around you. It has showed me something that I initially did not want to accept, which was to love myself.

I was talking with a friend when I saw that my nurse was calling me on the other line. It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was enjoying my usual stroll in the lobby of the office building where I worked. I do not remember much of what happened after I hung up the phone.

I could not feel my knees because it felt like somebody hit them with a baseball bat. I found myself in a meeting room being hugged by one of my co-workers as I was sobbing and screaming.

How could this happen? Maybe it is a mistake. Maybe they made a mistake in a lab. Maybe, just maybe …

I drove home with black mascara running down my cheeks and I tried to pay attention to where I was going, but I could not stop crying.

metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer, advice, faith

I was sitting in my SUV in front of my home, glued to my seat, and I wondered how I would reveal the bad news to my sons. How would I tell my family? Will I live? Will I die?

Those questions were racing through my head, but I realized I had to get out of my head if I wanted to keep my sanity. I had to find a new way to be at peace. But first, I had to adjust my perspective.

I called my sister Ingrid in Russia. We have not spoken in a long time, and it was an opportunity to heal our relationship. I often blamed it on the distance and being away from each other, and that we never wrote letters to each other but rather just spoke on the phone or sent the occasional social media message.

She lost her husband to cancer in 2012 and I knew she would understand me. Something in my heart told me to call her. It was late at night and I tried to keep myself together, but I could not. I cried. I was scared. I let it out. I told her I loved her and cared deeply.

That night, she told me something that became my anchor going forward. “Look at this challenge as your quest to discover who you are,” she said. “Remember you are loved, and you are love. It is your journey to accept love again. You always give love and you are afraid to receive love.”

Instead of accepting my cancer diagnosis as a major health challenge, I looked at it as my awakening to see the truth about what truly mattered in my life. It became my mission to heal my body, and for the very first time I felt like a new woman, ready to conquer the world and thrive again. It infused my spirit with courage and faith. I made a tough choice – to keep going and never give up.

Two days later my best friend flew in from Philadelphia. I picked her up at the Nashville airport. We have not seen each other in more than five years and I never expected our reunion would be under such circumstances. She hugged me tight and said in her soft, kind voice, “You will be OK. You will beat it. You will be just fine!”

And I knew right then it was a beginning of something beautiful and exciting in my life. It was my first step to loving myself again.

The next three months revealed what needed to be done. Every day I would learn something new about self-care and practicing mindfulness. One night after seeing my new surgeon, I came home and sat on the floor in the middle of my tiny living room and I prayed to God. I prayed for miracles and asked for guidance.

My intuition led me to Dr. Pat Whitworth, a brilliant breast cancer surgeon with Nashville Breast Center. Suddenly, everyone was telling me about him. Even a lady who ran a local donut shop said, “Honey, he saved my life!”

I believed her while savoring my Bavarian cream donut and sipping on my coffee on a Saturday morning.

The moment the surgeon walked into the room; I just knew he was the right doctor for me. My search stopped right there.

He was different than any other doctor I have met. He knew how to bring me out of my funk and into a state of inner peace. There was a calmness about him. His energy spoke before he did. He helped me see my life in a new light, embrace each moment and never lose hope for the best. His care has helped me win a battle within myself and accept myself for who I am, with all my flaws and all my scars and accept a new title of “Wounded Warrior.” Every time I would experience anxiety, his response would be “Tatyana, find your peace and stay there.”

Since I started my breast cancer journey, I have met a few women who are powerful cancer survivors. They told me that cancer had given them a new lease on life.

Some of the life lessons I have learned include:

  • Be with people you love,
  • Let go of everything that feels lukewarm or toxic,
  • Stop doing things that do not excite you anymore and do something kind for yourself, and
  • Forgive often and say “I love you” without fear of looking stupid.

Breast cancer makes you wiser and more mature, but it also opens your heart to see that love is around you.

Removing cancer was only a fresh beginning of discovering my true purpose in life.

Cancer also taught me another big lesson about trusting myself and listening to my intuition. The most beautiful gift you can give to yourself is to listen to your inner voice, the one you are so afraid to trust and often you tend to brush it off, saying “You are thinking too much!”

Cancer has showed me something that I initially did not want to accept, which was to love myself.

Tatyana Gann is a publicity strategist, mindset coach, writer, lifestyle advocate and breast cancer thriver. Her aim is to inspire women to tell their story to heal their mind and body. Tatyana resides in Nashville with her two sons. You can follow her on Instagram here.

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