“What lies behind us and what lies ahead matters little compared to what lies within us.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~ 

Experiencing shock, fear and grief reveals the truest sense of who we are.  Learning we have cancer, that the gift of life is no longer guaranteed is explosive, yet picking up and guarding the pieces of our life that make us whole is a transition of a lifetime.

As a survivor, I speak the language of gratitude daily, yet the commitment to share my experience and write this book has awakened a euphoric feeling that I have grabbed hold of and speak to with tremendous thanksgiving.

Our lives are simply a reflection and flow of who we are, what we do and where we’ve been. Not expected, breast cancer is never a welcome guest in our lives, yet it’s presence has taught me over time that the unexpected can give new meaning to our lives. I needed to shed the emphasis I placed on being organized and placing a greater trust in letting things naturally happen. Discipline and routine owned me and I’m now taking a bigger bite out of life and putting my trust in chance for a change. I’m putting so much more into practice with authenticity. Cancer brings opportunity for reflection and introspection, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we ask ourselves the right questions. Life before cancer required a zoom lens that I focused on the details ~ things always had to be done and in order, at a frenzied pace. Today I work on slowing down and taking my time to look at the landscape around me ~ I try to think before I act.

Life after cancer now is nothing short of panoramic. Our change in our behavior and priorities can bring amazing emotional release and releases so much space to let our life flow. I knew my healing would have to come from a new set of circumstances, and asking myself to listen to my intuitions with a sense of openness not fear. My feelings needed to be listened to as cues and signals that spoke to where I was and what I needed. I really do believe that pain and challenges are a sign of growing, and when we are suddenly gentle with ourselves, we generate the same energy in others. Vulnerability, too, is a breeze when we love ourselves.

Think about it.

When we are not completely comfortable with ourselves, we guard our insecurities and the space between us and vulnerability is as wide as the ocean and we need all the courage we can gather to swim across. With vulnerability, we experience true connection ~ respect for ourselves~ and we then attract others who are inspired by our openness. So, I encourage everyone to, like me, to show your complexities. You will be pleasantly surprised how loving and respecting ourselves and sharing this with others will connect us with everyone. Without question more than anything else, cancer has strengthened my view and value of our human connection, and the significance of human kindness that means so much more than things. I now know that our human spirit can overcome and soar above adversity, that every negative becomes a positive, and tremendous strength is revealed when we embrace it. I now try to live each day fully not relying on tomorrow, which after all is not a given. I am humbled to be healthy and alive, today.

This life is a gift, every day is a gift. Our ability to achieve does not define us! It’s our ability to love and be compassionate to others using whatever gifts God has given us that defines each of us. So, do what you can while focusing on what’s important. I’m learning with practice to stop talking long enough to really hear what others have to say. When we invite others to share their fears, concerns ~ their story ~ we all benefit and feed off of this feeling a renewed sense of mutual respect and enthusiasm. Since my diagnosis, treatment and time on the operating table, I am learning to add balance to my daily life with meditation, gentler exercise (I only knew, for too long, how to exercise at a fast pace ~ it was all about cardio, the clock, the race), volunteering as a family and child advocate, prayer and light conversation, to name a few. I do rest, too, and when I can’t sleep at night I stay comfortably in bed. I know what the most import ant use of my time is throughout the day and when I’m completing a task, in a meeting, at a fitness class, sharing time with my family and friends..I’m doing just that at the moment; feeling, hearing and seeing all that is in that space.

It’s been three years since I was diagnosed…sometimes it’s really hard, sometimes I struggle with fatigue and neuropathy and chemo brain. But I live, breathe, love and laugh ~ as trite as that may seem. I fear less. My journey becomes more surreal as time passes and I can’t believe that I actually had cancer. It’s really all about remaining positive and boldly saying: “I am strong”, “I can beat this” and “I will be cancer free”.

Let’s strive to lift ourselves toward a place and time from which we can look back and know that we did everything in our power to be happy, be healthy, and survive.

Hey, we can’t just cut the cancer out of us, have surgery and/or treatment and think we are done. We need to cut the cancer out of our mind. We have to live, eat and breathe with positive intention. Choose to forgive so that the healing can take place.

Search for and realize the beauty of serenity ~ this is important.

Find every means of healing that speaks to you and throw it at the disease in your body.

Life, we’re all in this together; it’s scary ~ life can be scary, but God it’s an adventure. Reach out and together we can do this!