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'Live in the Moment': Lessons From a Young Breast Cancer Survivor

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I ran my fingertips through pale pink sand and gazed at a glistening blue-green ocean ahead of me. I was laying on a lounge chair, enjoying a peaceful break from my busy life during a beach-side vacation. I yearned to immerse my entire body in the warm water but thought twice about going into the ocean. A large sign with a picture of a jellyfish had caught my eye earlier that day as my husband and I walked onto the beach.

Remembering this sign, I was now trying to decide if I should go into the ocean. Ordinarily, this would be a no-brainer. There were lots of other tourists basking in the sea, taking in the sound of the waves hitting the shore and the glorious color of the water, fully enjoying the moment. 

The moment. I recently learned to appreciate precious, fleeting time. I didn’t always follow the mantra to “live in the moment.” But surviving breast cancer at age 33, less than a year after becoming a mom, taught me the importance of it, among other lessons.

Between the time I went for my initial mammography exam until the time my tumor-status was determined post-operation, my life was in question. There was a good chance the cancer in my breast had escaped to nearby lymph nodes. But it didn’t. For that, I live in the moment. There was a good chance that if it was invasive, I would have needed chemotherapy. But I didn’t. For that, I live in the moment. There was a good chance that because I would need chemotherapy, I would struggle to fulfill my dream of completing my family. But I didn’t. And for that, I live in the moment.

Surgery to remove a good portion of my right breast followed by six weeks of radiation that left me exhausted was not a walk in the park. It was a struggle when I couldn’t lift my baby for a few weeks after surgery. It was an emotionally and physically trying time for me because I was working while undergoing radiation and taking care of my family. My life was on the line, but I still had to be a mom and an employee. A positive attitude kept me afloat. I was able to power through this rough patch in my life knowing everything would be OK.

Now I realize breast cancer could have killed me. After I finished treatment, I began to reflect and developed a new outlook on life. Facing cancer head-on has made me see that life can snap away in a moment and has opened my eyes to these life lessons.

Everyday moments of bliss, whether they are with family, friends or alone, are incredibly valuable and not to be missed. Bliss is spending time with my 2-year-old daughter. We watch “Dora the Explorer” in bed on weekend mornings, splash around in the pool and whip up batches of muffins together.

Life is short, so do what fulfills you. Since I was a child, I have enjoyed writing. It’s even been part of my career, although it’s been corporate-focused. After surgery, I began to pour my thoughts onto paper and realized writing about personal experiences really fulfills me.

Be positive.
 I try not to let the little things drag me down. I turn negative situations into positive ones and try to be flexible. When my job was eliminated shortly after I finished treatment, when all of my energy had been sapped out of my body, I felt defeated. I took time to sulk and then moved on, knowing a better opportunity was on the other side of the rainbow.

Time has seemed to speed up since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I now realize the precious nature of every moment, so I am anxious to hold onto as much time as possible and make the most of it.

Cancer returning to invade my body is always on the horizon of my mind. I grapple with thoughts of being diagnosed with breast cancer again and being ripped away from my daughter, my husband and my family and friends. I vigilantly check myself every month and routinely go to see my doctors, but I try to not let this ever-present worry get in my way of living my life. 

On that note, since living life trumps worry, I waded into that glorious green-blue sea and basked in it. I was even stung by some sea creature on my foot, but it was minor, and I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying my time in my happy place. Before I knew it, I was back in my everyday routine. Each day is not to be missed.

Originally published: October 17, 2016
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