Life Changes.

Sometimes when you are in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted. ~ Unknown

A few days ago I was reflecting on how much my life has changed over the last few months. Things which used to be high on my priority list, have lost their importance with a new set of priorities emerging to fill their space. A diagnosis of breast cancer, while not necessarily a death sentence, has evoked a shift of mindset as I search for a sense of purpose and meaning for my life.

I have discovered several things on my journey down this new path:

A Source of Inspiration.
Many people ask how I can remain so positive and upbeat about my diagnosis. Years ago when a high school friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, her doctor told her she had six months to live. Instead of being paralyzed by the news, Katrina sat down and created a list of things she wanted to accomplish, including seeing her daughter graduate from Harvard (she was a freshman at the time) and reuniting our high school graduation class, most of whom had drifted apart over the years. She contacted many of us, and word spread of the upcoming reunion in Jamaica, which she singlehandedly organized from California while undergoing numerous experimental treatments. Over 50 of our classmates from all over the world showed up and it was an overwhelming success.

Katrina accomplished every one of her goals and had to create a new list, before she died seven years after her diagnosis. The year she died, I formed a Relay for Life team in her honour, and our team of 30 persons raised over $100,000 towards Breast Cancer Research. Having seen what Katrina accomplished through sheer determination and grit, has inspired me to not lie down and wallow in misery, but to be positive, and hopefully inspire others the way she inspired me.

A New Family.
Breast Cancer survivors are a unique group of persons who have a wealth of strength and resilience which I have been blessed to experience first hand. I have been contacted by several survivors who have not been hesitant to provide me with support, advice and guidance. With this month being dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness, I have seen and heard many stories of resilience and support which give me hope in the face of darkness.

Breast Cancer Ribbon

Who you are is more important that what you have.
It is funny how material things lose their importance when faced with your own mortality. There is nothing more valuable than your relationships with others. My relationship with God, family, friends, co-workers and even acquaintances supersede any physical possession I may have, or wish to acquire.

The importance of Diet and Exercise.
Some people have commented that if I (who lead such a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise as an important focus) can get breast cancer, then why bother to live healthily? My answer is that I have no idea what would have happened had I not changed my diet and lifestyle four years ago. My recovery from two surgeries in what seems to be a remarkably short time span, I attribute to my body being in peak condition.

My journey of Life continues as I travel my new path with gratitude and plans to bloom wherever I am planted.

Mother's Day 2016 137

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The Glass is not Half Full. It is Refillable.

Since writing about my breast cancer diagnosis, I have been overwhelmed by positive responses, encouragement and well wishes from family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even persons who have never met me. I am humbled and grateful for the support of each person who has rallied around me with prayers, positive thoughts and caring advice. I was deeply touched when a friend told me that she admired my attitude towards my diagnosis, indicating that for me the glass was not just half full, it was refillable. Those words led me to consider what exactly I would be refilling in my glass.

Pouring Water Into Glass On Blue Background

Hope.
Maya Angelou once said that Hope and Fear cannot exist in the same space at the same time. You have to invite one to stay. I choose to fill my glass with Hope.

Purpose.
I strongly believe that my diagnosis at a time in my life when I have never been more healthy or fit, can send an important message that if it can happen to me, anyone is susceptible. My main reason for sharing my story was to encourage other women to do their mammograms, so should they find themselves in a similar situation, they will receive an early diagnosis, giving them a greater chance of full recovery. Since my last blog was posted, ten ladies have indicated that they plan to get their mammograms done, with one already completed. A male friend has also said he plans to have his prostate checked as soon as possible. I hope there are many others also planning to take preventive action.

Goals.
There are many goals I would like to achieve in my life: places to visit, races to complete, photography books to publish, hiking challenges to embark upon and new skills to learn. Some people would call this a bucket list but I consider this to be my glass filling list.

Prayers.
The most overwhelming response I have received is the multitude of prayers offered as groups of prayer warriors, family, friends and strangers have taken on my case as if it were their personal mission to ensure my complete recovery. There will always be room in my glass for prayer, not just for me, but also for all those desperate for prayers in their time of need.

There is one thing of which I am certain: My glass runneth over and over and over.

A Detour is not a Dead End

No journey or road is always smooth and straight without bends. There are dips, turns, hills and obstacles encountered along the way. This was never more evident to me than now. I have chronicled my story…my quest for a healthier and happier me in this blog where I relate what I have learnt through the experience of my battle with weight gain and subsequent health issues, hoping to help others who might be experiencing a similar struggle. This week my journey took a sharp left turn down a dark and narrow, pothole-filled road when I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my left breast.

In my despair I asked the questions anyone in this situation would ask: Why me? Why now? I am in the the best physical condition I have ever been, I eat healthily, rarely drink, exercise regularly and try to find the positive in every seemingly negative situation I encounter. So my natural inclination once I “recovered” from the shock (if there ever really is full recovery), was to identify all the positives arising from my diagnosis.

1. Support. Every single person I informed about my diagnosis, has been unquestioningly supportive. From the phone calls, to the offers to take me to appointments, to the prayers with me, I have never felt more loved than I do now.

2. Compassion. Persons who have been in this situation are uniquely qualified to offer advice and none I have encountered have hesitated to share their experiences with me. They have been where I am now, and their stories give me strength when my optimism is weakening.

3. Appreciation. I have learnt to appreciate members of the medical profession who face people like me, (and others with even more severe diagnoses) with a cheerful demeanor and offer encouraging and optimistic words.

4. Determination. Being a naturally competitive person, the importance of a challenge plays an important part of my life. While this may not be a 5K, 10K or even a half marathon, there is more at stake here than a best time or even the completion of a race. I am determined to do whatever I need to do to survive, and hopefully to keep inspiring others.

5. Belief in God. As a Christian, my faith plays an important part in shaping my life. I may not always seem to acknowledge the presence or importance of God in my life, however, in times of crisis there is no greater source of comfort.

As I continue on this journey of life, the most important thing I have learnt is that your outlook plays a major part in your outcome. A detour is not a dead end.

The Power of Encouragement.

 

“It costs nothing to pay someone a compliment, but it is priceless to the person receiving it.”

Last year, I went to an aerobics class at the gym and saw a young lady who had obviously been struggling with her weight. She would get tired after only a few moves, and stopped frequently to catch her breath before continuing with the class. Several weeks later I noticed that she looked smaller than when I had first seen her and told her that whatever she was doing was working because I could see that she had lost weight. She was really pleased that I had noticed, and told me that she had been working very hard to lose the weight.

This reminded me of the times I would be struggling to stick to the exercise program, feeling that it was all pointless, only to have one person come up to me and say that they noticed a difference. That was all it took to renew my commitment to stick to the plan. A simple compliment was the motivation I needed to persevere.

gym-c

Many times the first thing people feel compelled to comment about when they haven’t seen you in a while, is your appearance, and it is usually the negative aspect of your appearance they find worthy of their comment. They do not realize, or maybe don’t even care about how detrimental this can be to someone going through the weight loss/get fit struggle. I now make it a habit to compliment persons who have made progress, once it is noticeable.

Remember that young lady at the gym? Last month after not seeing her for several months, I saw her one morning and was shocked to notice that she was almost half her previous size. She told me that she had started to come to the gym at 4:30am, she had hired a personal trainer, and was vigilant about sticking to her programme. Her appearance was completely changed, but what was even more striking was how confident she had become.

What I learned from my experience:

·       To never comment on the negative aspect of anyone’s appearance since I do not know their struggle or situation;

·       To only commend someone on their appearance if there really is a noticeable change. The comment is only effective if it is genuine;

·       That it costs nothing to pay a compliment or to give a word of encouragement, but it could be priceless to the person receiving it.