During Cancer, I Find My Inner Goddess With Dinosaurs and Old Movies


Who would have thought that a small dinosaur toy helped give me the strength to fight metastatic breast cancer?

cartoon drawing of blogger and metastatic breast cancer survivor, Elizabeth McSpadden

As a little kid, I grew up watching action flicks with my dad and grandpa, sitting in the coziest chair, wrapped around Papa Bear, and eyes glued on the screen watching classics like “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars” or “James Bond.” These are some of the good ole action flicks that included movie buff heroes I cherished. Ironically, as a young kid, it brought me the most comfort watching them with my dad, and still to this day, I find some of the most comfort and strength in action-hero movies.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, someone told me that I may look to my comforts, and that some of my comforts may change. Ironically, one of my comforts that brought me some of the most grit was, and still is, watching action movies. As I started my action-movie marathons — with Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and so on — I found more inner goddess strength inside of me. Somehow watching action movies gave me comfort and energy to keep fighting cancer. Call me crazy, but I began to find myself being able to call myself a warrior and accept the diagnosis in a better mindset.

A fellow cancer warrior sent me another piece of strength in the mail: a plastic dinosaur, and a letter explaining her love for Godzilla and dinosaurs. It made so much sense how the comfort of Godzilla and the dinosaur following her to all of her appointments became good luck, and a sign of joy. At first, I didn’t think my spirit animal would be a dinosaur, but within a week, I was attached to “Rex,” who fiercely protected my side.

The more I channeled grit and strength into Rex and my inner goddess, the more unstoppable and brave I felt to deal with cancer. Mind over matter may be, but the eight rounds of chemotherapy and double mastectomy were some of the hardest events I encountered in my 30 years of life. Even now, at 35, with stage 4 breast cancer, I’ve dealt with some of my hardest cards of life and nearly died multiple times.

Finding strength and hope amongst a cancer diagnosis, and survival is difficult; it’s an everyday challenge. Some days are easier than others to find that strength, and on other days, the weight of it all just feels incredibly heavy. I am so proud of myself for recognizing that I am able to see these differences in days where I need to seek out additional strength.

I’ve spent five years with stage four breast cancer in a deep battle, and I can say that I’ve learned a lot — I need all the emojis and pictures of dinosaurs for thriving. Dinosaurs on bicycles, dinosaur Christmas cards, dinosaur décor and all of the memes and funny dinosaur clip art. Rex is forever entwined in my soul, and somehow, I think he keeps me alive, whether through protection or some other miracle. It is hope and joy masked in strength. For cancer warriors, what else could we ask for? Dealing with cancer emotions and side effects can be a great deal of stress and chaos. Spirit animals and fun can bring all sorts of joy and hope to our side of the pond — where we don’t even know how something so small might change the world for us.

Who knew a dino would give me such fighting grace? Who knew action movies were my comfort thing all along?

Never in my wildest dreams did I think there would be strength in dinosaurs and action movies. Yet, anything is possible. I think my next tattoo ought to be Rex.

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