10 Things I’ve Learned in the 10 Years Since My Cancer Diagnosis

It’s really interesting entering into a brand new decade and leaving one behind. I’ve never experienced it as an adult, and now with the age of social media, it seems people are reflecting and sharing a lot more. What’s even more interesting is that for me, this new decade marks an exact decade since being diagnosed with cancer at 16 years old. I didn’t realize it until I started writing this that every new decade for the rest of my life will be marked in the same way. That’s kind of what cancer does, ya know? It’s not there once it’s gone, yet it’s always there.

Instead of writing some long, deeply profound piece about all I’ve learned and experienced in the last 10 years after going through something so traumatic, I decided to break it down into 10 points. It felt easier to process that way which means it’ll probably be easier to understand as well.

  1. Don’t take your health for granted. Bad things happen to healthy people every day. If you have a healthy body that is functioning normally in the brilliant way God designed it to function, thank Him.
  2. Don’t be vain. One of the things I immediately learned as a 16 year old girl who was told that chemo could make me lose my hair, holding out every hope that I wouldn’t, but eventually watching it happen, is that looks don’t matter. Literally anything could happen at any moment. Don’t not date someone because they’re “not your type”. Scratch the types. Fall in love with someone’s heart.
  3. Don’t give someone special attention or single them out in any way if they’re fighting an illness. The only thing someone with cancer wants is to be normal. If you’re drawing attention to the fact that they have cancer, even if you feel like it’s in a kind way because you’re asking how they’re feeling, don’t. Act like nothing has changed. They’re just trying to survive.
  4. Things could always be worse. Always. 
  5. You don’t know when you’re going to die. Treat every person like it’s the last time you’ll talk with them. Be overly kind. Don’t get frustrated over the small things. Take the trip. Buy the dress. Eat the carbs. Don’t carry the things that weigh you down. Share the gospel every chance you get. Sing loud and dance free. Hug a lot.
  6. You’re not weak because you have anxiety. I hit a point where I realized that in my mind, I was always waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Trauma impacts your brain and how it functions. Honestly, the enneagram test really helped me recognize that I was not processing my grief as well as I could have and it helped me understand why, at least partially. I am an enneagram 7, meaning we typically tend to avoid pain at all costs and are positive to a fault. I kept wanting to be okay when I wasn’t. It doesn’t matter how positive you are, saying you’re okay when you’re not doesn’t make you okay.
  7. Talk about what you’re feeling. When I was at my lowest point, I realized that I really just needed to voice how I was feeling and what my fears were so that someone could tell me everything was okay. When we speak our fears out loud, little by little, they lose their power over us. Sometimes, seeking professional counseling is needed. A lot of times, talking to a trusted family member or friend about where our head is at is really all we need. 
  8. Only 2 things really matter. The only thing that matters is your relationship with God and your relationship with people. When you stand before Jesus, nothing else will be relevant.
  9. God will use your pain. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” Psalm 30:11
    “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29

  10. Time heals wounds, but you’ll still have scars. At first, I was overwhelmingly grateful for all the ways that cancer changed me. Over time, I eventually realized that while cancer did change me in a lot of amazing ways, it also broke me. My heart kept seeking comfort in who I was and what life looked like before that day, but the reality is I will never be that person again. Trauma changes you. It forces you to grieve the way life was before and move forward realizing life can be beautiful and good, but it will never be quite the same.

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