After being diagnosed with breast cancer, I struggled to discuss what was going on, but once I started a blog, the sunshine began to pour in.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I remember those first few days and weeks full of anxiety, fear, uncertainty and full-blown shock. Nothing felt comforting, I could barely focus at work and my brain was in overdrive of information.
One of my pivotal moments was when my first care team couldn’t agree on a treatment plan, leaving me in a state of loss, imbalance and anger. This point created several crucial moments for me:
At that point, a piece of me died when I left that first care team. It was the part of me that wasn’t “real,” the part that was shaken up, unable to speak and breathe and grasping for any hint of peace.
Out of fear, I protected myself because I didn’t know the future, and the unknown scared me. My cup became empty, when usually it’s at least half full. But then I decided that I was no longer going to hide my cancer story, because I realized it wasn’t me.
Enter Team Sunshine/ Liz Survival.
Pre-cancer fact: I wear my heart on my sleeve, I’m an open book, and my nickname is Sunshine, for my smile. I earned that nickname in college, from the movie “Remember the Titans,” where the Californian teammate has lush blonde locks and smiles a lot. Sunshine as my nickname has carried me through a lot of grit, grace and gratitude, and mostly, you can figure out my personality pretty quickly.
It was at this point, I created a CaringBridge site, and I opened my heart and soul to my circles. For first entry, I wrote out all of the facts of my cancer and why I had such a difficult time sharing, but it was time to be open. I signed it “Love, Sunshine.”
The warmth poured in like sunshine. The love, care and support immediately flooded emails, texts, calls and social media.
Team Sunshine was indeed my saving grace; I was not alone.
Over the next few weeks as I switched care teams, I received answers about my future treatments, and it became a little less scary. Fear wasn’t stopping me from informing the people I loved. I did put a few boundaries in my blog, where I asked for respect and modern medicine options.
Team Sunshine is how my cup filled, and how I began to feel like the old Liz. Four years later, and the blog is still going strong, and I pay it forward where I send mini care packages of love to other cancer warriors I meet.
I still document my updates and feelings. It’s given me the strength and vulnerability to co-exist with my cancer.
Sharing our stories is not easy, but it allows us to connect and creates strength. One of my closest rays of Sunshine shared a quote with me, that to this day, I value the most: “And the moon said to me, my darling, you do not have to be whole in order to shine”.
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