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Breast Cancer has it's blessings
Breast Cancer has it's blessings
Sandy and Marietta (June 2010)


October 19th is Breast Cancer awareness day and, although it is super important to promote monthly self-exploration and regular checkups for early detection, I believe it is also essential to raise awareness of how important it is to pay attention to the message cancer brings and what it came to teach you if you end up with a diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2010, when I was 37 years old. I had been through a divorce in May 2008; my 3 year old son’s kidney disease in May 2009, and his transplant in December of that same year. I had a full time job in a food company, a mortgage, 2 kids and 100% of the economic responsibility.

In January 2010 I had my yearly check up with the gynecologist and everything seemed to be OK. I went for a mastography 4 months later because one of my aunts was diagnosed with breast cancer and she was the second of my mother´s sisters to go through this breast cancer stuff, so the oncologist suggested that the rest of the females in the family should check “just for prevention”.

You can imagine what was my surprise when I entered the radiologist’s office and saw my radiography hanging on the light box. I could see the undesirable little black ball very clearly. “Please tell me that is not my X-ray!” I begged. “It is” She said with an un-personal voice. “Then please bring me all the dogs in the world so they can pee on me all at once and for good!” I replied.

After a few minutes going through the ultrasound she was doing to confirm the level of estimated malignity of the little bastard, (which, by the way, was pretty high), and after a ton of questions from my side, she said: “It surprises me that you are so calm”. “I am pretty sure I am NOT going to die from this” I replied. “If my destiny was to die from cancer, I wouldn’t have catched it so early. If my aunt hadn´t been diagnosed, I wouldn´t have known, and by the time I would have noticed something, it would probably had been too late. So I am pretty sure there is something important for me to learn here, and then keep on living in a wiser way”.

And there was. There were a ton of learnings and hidden gifts in confronting a deadly disease and living that experience, but I´ll summarize here what were the 5 main gifts that Cancer gave to me:

1. The chance to STOP and focus on self-care.

If you are like me before my cancer: driven, results oriented, “unstoppable”… This disease gives you a very good and unquestionable reason to halt, to turn attention to self-care, to learn to ask for and accept help. To review and change some habits. You probably would never have thought about giving yourself so much time and love until now, and you know what? It is a VERY good thing to do so.

2. The opportunity to Re-prioritize what is really important in life.

I started viewing things and hierarchies with a different light and was able to give priority to ME and my loved ones before work, status, social compliance, being politically correct, external expectations, ego, consumerism, etc. This can have a HUGE impact in how you decide to live your life, what you choose, what you work for, what you do, what you worship, who you serve, etc.

3. The Realization that I was stronger than I thought.

I became aware of my real value and potential. I realized that I was brave, that I was capable of doing things I didn´t think I was before my disease. I learned that I could be flexible but strong, that I was feminine despite not having hair or breasts; that I deserved joy and fulfillment and that I had what I needed to reach them. If I was able to give a battle to a deathly disease and resist it, I am able to do anything!

4. The chance to change and re-invent myself.

After going through everything cancer implies (in my case, mastectomy, chemotherapy, Radiation and Herceptin), and all the physical, emotional, spiritual changes I experienced, there was no one who could judge if I decided to change paths, start new realtionships, change careers, change looks, change religion or whatever I wanted and needed to change or re-invent in order to live a happier more fulfilling life, so LEVERAGE!

5. The ability to live in the NOW with a lot more mindfulness and gratitude, flowing with life without trying to control everything.

This was a BIG one for me. Being a perfectionist controlling freak, cancer gave me a lesson on what it means to really live and enjoy simple un-perfect, spontaneous moments. To live one day at a time, to be OK with what the Dr. had to say today and not worrying too much about what he might say tomorrow. To appreciate the little things, not to hang on to any rigid expectation and to let life surprise me. I learned to appreciate every simple detail, every second with my loved ones, to laugh more, to dance more, to LIVE more while I have the chance. To keep on celebrating life every single day while I am still in this world. THIS has been the biggest gifts of all and I am very, very grateful.

We all have an expiration date, and as a good friend of mine says, “It is not about making life longer, but about making it wider”. Cancer gives you this new perspective, and it is one that we ALL need to have to live better. So please learn from other’s experience.

Let October be not only the breast cancer awareness month. Let this be the “living to the fullest” awareness month and year and decade. Because it is a blessing to be healthy and alive!

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