The Lessons Cancer Taught Me

In this month of breast cancer awareness, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned as a survivor

In this month of breast cancer awareness, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned as a survivor:

  1. Hillel said it best, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?” I remember rushing to prepare everything for my family when I was first diagnosed. I needed to make sure that everything was in order and that my husband and kids were taken care of and prepared for anything that might happen. Once I made preparations for them and took care of things at work so my team could function fully without me, I was then able to focus on myself. I gave myself permission to block everything else out so I could concentrate on my recovery. I knew that way I had a better chance at returning to full health so I could once again take care of my family and enjoy life. Today, I still take care of myself. I keep up with my checkups and try to exercise and eat healthily. In this way, I control the things I can control and am better prepared for the things I can’t.
  1. Don’t dwell on the things you can’t change. It’s not worth sinking into depression over things that are out of your control. Focus on what you can do, but also pick your battles.
  1. It’s never a mistake to do a good thing or something nice for someone else. If you’re thinking about an old friend, send them a text and tell them. If someone has experienced a death in the family and you aren’t sure if you should attend the funeral or visit the house of mourning, the answer is always “yes.” The little things matter.
  1. Kiss your kids. A lot and often, even if they act like they don’t want you to love on them.
  1. Kiss your partner (or other loved ones, relatives, and friends). Love is love is love is love. We should constantly celebrate it in all its forms.
  1. Express gratitude. Every day. Multiple times a day. Doing so gives you an appreciation for the wonder of the moment and helps us acknowledge the many blessings in our lives.
  1. Learning is how we continue to grow as human beings. If we aren’t growing, we aren’t living. Continue to learn- anything! Study Jewish texts, learn a new skill, listen to a new perspective. Learning helps add meaning to our lives.
  1. It is sometimes too easy to close the door and just hide under the covers in relative safety. Get out of your comfort zone. Try new things. Push yourself in healthy ways that help you discover new aspects of your personality or new capabilities you didn’t realize you had.
  1. Learn how to say no. Don’t feel guilty for making valuable use of your precious time. For instance, if you are deciding between a work function or attending your kid’s baseball game, always choose the game. We can’t get back the time we have spent.
  1. People are inherently good, just flawed. Occasionally, people said foolish things to me when they learned I had cancer. I’m learning to be more forgiving. I believe people generally try to do good and be good. They just didn’t realize the impact of their words. Sometimes, you have to let things go for your mental health. Move on. Move forward. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

I sometimes consider what my legacy will be. While I expect to live a long full life, I am trying to be mindful of my choices, my words, and deeds. I think about how I’d like to be remembered and try to live accordingly.

How do you want people to know and remember you? Live every day to achieve that vision of your best self.

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