On January 17 of this year, I got the call informing me that I was diagnosed with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), a non-invasive form of breast cancer, referred to as Stage 0 because it’s confined to the milk ducts of the breast. While it’s non-life threatening, and could’ve been much, much worse, it was still a big shock to the system, psychologically, emotionally, and physically. I was asymptomatic with no lump to feel. It was caught on my routine mammogram back in mid-December 2019.
Mine was aggressive with the potential to turn into invasive cancer at some point, so off I went into treatment in the middle of the pandemic. This included three surgeries in five weeks to remove the bad cells, 16 radiation treatments over three weeks, and many other procedures along the way (biopsy, MRI, genetic testing, CT scan, six COVID tests, and x-rays and mammography images galore). I finished my conventional treatment on July 23 and am now in maintenance mode (thank goodness!), complemented by working with an integrative doctor to take a holistic approach to my survivorship and prevent recurrence.
I share all this because we never know what life will throw at us at any time that will challenge us and rock us to our core when we least expect it. Breast cancer is not in my family, and while my diet was by no means perfect, I didn’t do too badly (though sugar was definitely my weakness – and whiskey. OK, vodka too. I got myself a tattoo of a Cosmopolitan martini back when I turned 40 if that tells you anything!). We cook at home most of the time, and I exercise regularly. I’ve been more concerned about heart disease and diabetes over the years and never had this on my radar. Once through the initial shock, disbelief, and crying, I told my husband that it was unacceptable. I’ve got too much going on and too many people to support through my work for this to be anything but unacceptable and it had to be vanquished, no matter what.
Everything about any cancer diagnosis is wrenching, from processing through it and grieving your life before it, to telling people, to researching all of the options for conventional and unconventional treatment and about your particular brand of it, to clearing bad food, personal care, and household products out of your home and upending your family in the process, to learning how to cook and store food differently, to the time suck and physical effects of treatment, to facing your own mortality – everything.
And yet, it’s also been a great gift in my middle age to really make my health a priority and re-work things in my business that I needed to tend to for a while. My mom died of skin cancer in 2016 and it was a five-month whirlwind from start to finish – that’s all – five months from diagnosis to death because she kept it hidden over a fear of healthcare professionals from medical traumas she had throughout her life. Since that time, I’ve been dealing with insomnia, which I’m sure contributed to my own situation, and work was sporadic and brought its own stressors. It was time to get the proverbial house in order and my little backside in gear.
While I’ve learned a lot about cancer these last seven months, and about vegan products (who knew there were so many types of flour to cook with?), where toxins lurk, how important it is to do your medical screenings (even during the pandemic), how lidocaine shots hurt like a *$@!, and how easy it can be for people to go bankrupt from medical bills without good insurance, I’ve learned a couple additional lessons to share here with you.
- Whatever goal you have that’s out there somewhere in the distance, whether for your personal or professional growth, lifestyle, relationships, or anything else, work toward it now. There’s risk in anything that’s important and worth doing, and yet, life is very short, even though there are days when things seem to drag on and on (like being at home so much here in the days of COVID). So break it down into steps and get it done. Stop wasting time, however you do so (we all do). It’s worth the risk if it means living a full life that brings you joy. No more excuses. There are always things you can do, regardless of your circumstances, to move forward in your life.
- Open your heart and mind to people, even if, like me, you’re a private person or tend to be more reserved or keep things close. Again, it’s a risk, and as someone who’s had a lifelong fear of criticism and judgment, I’ve had to work through it and realize that connecting with people through both the heart and the head is the only way I’ll reach my potential as a coach. Hence, this article. The support I’ve received from friends and family these last few months and now, after learning about my story, has been invaluable and I’m incredibly grateful. Now, I can pass that along to my clients, being fully engaged with my whole heart and true to myself.
So, what’s your story? What are you going to do that you’ve been putting off or coming up with umpteen reasons to not do? What do you need to vanquish from your life to live it fully?