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10 Surprising Benefits of Surviving My Life-Threatening Illnesses

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Sometimes it takes a small event to remind me of how much I have really achieved in my life (aka being alive!). I’ve been in and out of hospitals since I was 5 years old, when I was first diagnosed with bone cancer. My cancer came back at age 13. Chemo and radiation did a number on my body and mind, with leg amputation, kidney failure and a whole host of life-threatening situations along the way.

I never valued what I’ve been through much. I just wanted to get back to life — that is, until a self-absorbed person I met diminished how much work it took for me to stay alive, stay positive, become a yoga teacher, go to graduate school and even take a walk around the block. I decided to honor the gifts of my life for myself by writing about them. If you’ve experienced something similar, I hope this list will tap into your own gratitude meter to raise it up a bit.

1. I’m free. I really don’t care what other people think about me because I understand that life is precious, so you might as well be yourself through and through.

2. I speak with hope. I don’t want to talk about my suffering too much because I don’t want to waste a minute of this precious life.

3. My compassion for others is through the roof.

4. I know a lot — a lot about medicine, bodies, pain management, inventive ways to get through the day, maneuvering with crutches, wheelchairs, tight spaces, stairs, health, nutrition, alternative medicine, wellness, spirituality and how to choose my own happiness.

5. I’m more intuitive. I have “feelings” about things and people.

6. I’m at peace. I’m no longer afraid of death because I’ve got that one covered. Been there, done that.

7. My senses are heightened. I can smell someone full of BS from a thousand miles away.

8. I know how to stand up for myself. If someone tries to put me down or squeeze the life out of me, I know what to do. I’ve already had the life squeezed out of me so many times I can’t even count. Now I know how to fight, and I know how to win.

9. I care. I’m a give-back kind of person, someone who truly values life, who doesn’t want, but needs to contribute meaningfully to the world.

10. I’m beautiful — and so are you. We’ve earned our right to shine.Those scars aren’t for nothin’, honey.

Follow this journey on Fierce Joy.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: August 17, 2015
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