I have looked death in the face on more than one occasion. Yet no other challenge was as life- and mind-altering as being diagnosed with breast cancer.
After getting the news, I felt like I was living through the apocalypse. I thought, “This must be a hoax. This can’t be happening to me.” Trapped in the prison of my body, as traitorous cells tried to take over, I was frightened and internally screaming.
One day, I had a powerful realization: that this was my life... and it didn’t come with a money back guarantee. There was no “no risk,” “verified” or “secure” way to live. I didn’t get to get a refund if I didn’t like the cards I was dealt. Knowing that I could be facing death scared the sh*t out of me ― enough to make me wake the hell up and live. Here’s what I learned.
1. You can’t live scared.
Cancer gave me an urgency of life; and while it didn’t eradicate my fears, it gave me the freedom to play with them. In a sense, I now had the kryptonite that rendered fear useless. So, instead of running from what made me scared, I could choose to not indulge my fears anymore.
Life happens while you’re worrying, but no matter how much you worry about the future, it may or may not happen anyway. Control is an illusion, so just surrender to the flow and have faith.
3. I didn’t know how to live.
I’d spent 16 years getting an education but didn’t know how to live. School doesn’t teach us how to handle emotions, how to manage thoughts and energy, how to shift our mindset, how to dig into our fears and how to breathe when life is falling apart. I now had the challenge of, and the opportunity to teach myself how to live. My unraveling through cancer gave me an education about myself, which I learned from, including putting together a toolkit that helped me, not only get through cancer, but to play the game of life.
4. I could change my story at any time.
I didn’t know I could do that! I thought that “this was how life was.” While undergoing chemotherapy, I realized I was co-creator of my life, and I could re-write it! So, I did! I wrote a hell of a new story, and in this new script, my life would be real, amazing, astonishing, mesmerizing, delicious, delectable, yummy, exquisite, epic, incredible, captivating, magnificent, soulful, spiritually orgasmic and sublime.
5. It’s okay to fall apart.
I’d had the belief that being strong meant keeping it all together, but when sh*t hits the fan, there were times when my strength was like “Bye Felicia,” while I simultaneously lost my Wonder Woman cape. Yikes! So, I fell apart... and it was okay. I learned to sit with it; I learned from it and I grew from it.
6. From the day we are born, we are dying.
The panic I felt about having cancer became so overwhelming that I couldn’t function. For months, I was in a daze, until I realized... wait... newsflash! I didn’t want die now... or ever, but from the day we are born, we are dying.
I wish that I’d had this epiphany before! Many people live without direction, zest, passion or joy. Cancer, while f-cked up, was now making me realize that I was going to die one day, anyway. So, I need to go gangbusters up in this piece. And, I wasn’t going to give cancer all the freakin’ power. It had served its purpose as a catalyst, but now, it needed to bow down. I was in control; and I intended to get to living.
7. There was beauty in my brokenness.
As I looked at the perfect disaster my life had become, I saw myself for the first time, without filters or masks... and through the broken pieces, my true essence began to emerge. The purity of me that I’d forgotten, lost or layered over was looking at me in the mirror. My reflection was beautiful. This was me. From this place, I began to see myself in a whole new way. I explored my pain and more deeply reconnected with me.
8. I could never again forget to stay in communication with my soul.
As I got reacquainted with myself, I realized I didn’t know my purpose ― the reason that my soul had chosen to be here. God had designed me for a reason, but, somewhere between birth and then, I’d forgotten it. I began to spend the majority of my waking moments asking, listening and seeking to connect deeper with my God and my soul. Along the way, I remembered my why. Now, I would live a life of soul purpose, and not just for me.
9. I’m not waiting to die to get my wings.
Why wait to get to Heaven to to live as if you’re in the Promised Land? I would create my paradise on Earth. I would manifest my Nirvana every day. I would put on my wings and soar. Going forward, I would give zero f*cks about other people’s opinions, live my truth and live every day in relentless, unabashed pursuit of my bliss.
10. Cancer didn’t make me a survivor ― I always was.
I love being alive, and I love the strength that blossomed from within me as I journeyed through cancer. I was honored to be a survivor, but then, I’d always been one. Cancer didn’t give me anything I didn’t already have inside of me.