Today, June 7th 2020 is Cancer Survivor’s Day. Strangely it is also a year to the day that I found the lump in my left breast whilst working abroad and so the journey began. No one wants to be told they have the big “C.” It’s scary. July 9th 2020 I heard those words. For me, my diagnosis came in the form of breast cancer, in the middle of bringing up my children and enjoying life: it was an unwelcome guest whose appearance disrupted everything.
Luckily, I found it early, went through rounds of treatment and am fortunate to have a very positive outlook. But the experience has changed me in ways I could never have imagined and I have learned a lot on my journey. Lessons I want to share with you.
I want to offer hope. Hope which will come in the form of re-establishing my 15 year old coaching business to focus totally on resilience coaching
We all have a different relationship with cancer, some of us have lost people close to us and some of us have had no experience of it but all of us are a little bit scared of that word. I want to show you there is life on the other side and there are plenty of happy endings.
Having had some experience of cancer in the past I was pretty terrified about the prospect but thanks to such advancements in cancer treatments the whole process is far less uncomfortable than it was 10 years ago. The people you meet along the way, nurses, doctors, radiologists, receptionists and of course your family and friends, the kindness that is around you in those hours of darkness is quite overwhelmingly wonderful
I look back over the last 12 months and believe sometimes, we need a big shake to find the time to evaluate what is actually happening in your day to day life. My life will never be the same after this experience, and if I am really honest I don’t want it to be. The Pandemic has also added another layer of change that none of us would have ever predicted, but I have almost learned to roll with the changes, I am sure there will be a whole lot more waves of change coming our way in the not so distant future. The fears I faced, the growth I had and the gratitude I learned from my experience is something I never want to forget. I have always had an optimistic and positive approach to life, ask my family and friends, I am sure it can be quite annoying but it is that that has helped me survive. Something good had to come out of something so awfully bad. The important things in my life have become so much clearer, I have finally realised what I am good at! Cancer has brought with it a forced look in the mirror, a time to enjoy the simple things in life and see the flowers from the weeds. When you’re forced to sit down in front of your children and tell them you have cancer, life takes a dramatic turn. But with this has come a deep sense of clarity that I hope will stay with me throughout the rest of my life.
Here’s what I learned from cancer:
1) Do what you love….. NOW
Work it out, what brings you joy, imagine it! Identify what your priorities are, and then focus your energy on them. It’s really that simple. Before my cancer experience, I used to run around, doing everything for everybody. While I searched for balance in my life, I never seemed to find it. That was then, this is now. I know how I want to spend my time and who I want to spend it with. It’s still work in progress but I am learning everyday. I am saying goodbye to the days when I felt I needed to please other people or do things out of guilt. I’m working on getting good at saying NO!
2) Be present in the moment
Life is uncertain. Wow, don’t we know that at the moment! I am choosing to be more mindful, developing that muscle, enjoying each moment of my life, connecting with the people I love and finding joy every day. Worry is so detrimental, I am learning to let it go. We spend a huge amount of time worrying about the what if, which inevitably never happens. This very thing stops us enjoying each precious moment. I am learning to do what I can, being prepared helps me and then just surfing the waves!
3) Take care of you
We were raised to think we should always put others before ourselves and ignore our own needs – that it is somehow arrogant or self-centred, and not a nice thing to do. Taking care of you is essential, but what does that actually mean? We are all different but deep down we all probably know what to do. Some of the things I have started to do are;
Getting outside everyday
Eating healthy food
Doing things I enjoy everyday
Getting one thing done everyday and celebrating!!
Yoga and mindfulness practice
Getting a good night sleep
Being patient with myself
4) Spend time with the people you love and surround yourself with people that make you feel good!
You learn who your true friends are when you go through a difficult time. The support system that I had made all the difference in the world to me, and I cherish my friends and family more now than ever before. They have been my cosy warm blanket that has kept me . The people in our lives and the relationships we have is what truly matters. Take the time to connect to the people who mean the most to you. Unplug, turn off your phone and talk with the people sitting in front of you. But also Consider taking an honest look at all the people you are in contact with is there anyone around you who sucks the joy out of your day if there is how can you start to distance yourself from them. There are some friendships we outgrow as we get older and change, and that’s OK. When you’re around people who are positive and make you feel good about yourself, you’ll know it.
Live your life to the full with purpose and intention. None of us knows what will happen tomorrow, but what we can do is live well each and every day.
I’m thankful to be on this side of things, and grateful for everyday, I am still learning and developing. It was a hard journey and I still have a way to go, but my family is closer and stronger because of what we went through. Today sees the re-launch of my coaching consultancy Purple Hat Coaching focusing on Resilience Coaching, helping others work through disruptive change. Am I glad I got the big “C”? No, of course not. At the same time, I recognise my life is more tuned in because of it. I hope you never hear the words, “You have cancer,” but if you do, it isn’t the end of the world. You can get through it. Believe you can and you’re more likely to have the positive outcome you desire.
Don’t spend your time worrying about the future or feeling badly about the past. Try to enjoy the right here, right now, and make a promise to yourself to make the most of every moment.
Author: Tracey West is the Founder and Resilience & Wellness Coach at Purple Hat Coaching.