By Linda Morgan
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides an opportunity to raise awareness about breast cancer, to educate people about it and to celebrate survivorship. The last topic is very close to my heart because I’m a breast cancer survivor.
I was diagnosed with the disease 18 years ago, and from the second I found out, my life changed. My journey included surgery, regular chemotherapy, high-dose chemo and radiation. I’m very fortunate in that I haven’t had a recurrence or a new cancer diagnosis. Still, I think about breast cancer every single day as well as the many lessons I’ve learned from this bittersweet adventure. I’d like to share a few of them with you.
It might sound trite or cliché, but breast cancer has given me much more than it’s taken from me. It gave me a second chance, and in a special way, it has made my life richer, fuller and happier. It forced me to rethink what was valuable and meaningful to me while strengthening my love for family, friends and faith. It challenged me to be a better person, encouraged me to take risks and made me realize what an incredibly strong woman I am. Because of this, I have a new appreciation for life, respect for death and hope for the future.
For me, cancer has been an opportunity, not a loss; a challenge, not a curse. It’s hard to explain and may be harder to understand, but I found a sense of freedom in facing death and in recognizing that life has limits. It’s amazing to me how a life-threatening disease could be so life-enhancing. For all of these lessons, I am grateful.
And along the way, this disease has introduced me to many brave and strong breast cancer survivors in addition to the wonderful people who care for them. I’ve learned so much from talking with others and listening to their stories. An important part of my recovery was connecting with these individuals via support groups in my community and through volunteer work with related organizations and groups. I discovered I wasn’t alone and that maybe, just maybe, I could help others by using my communication background and skills.
Encouraging words from those survivors inspire me to this day, and I’d like to recognize all of them because they taught me the best lesson of all: breast cancer is a beginning, not an end.
Be healthy, be hopeful, be happy – wishing you the best of luck on your journey!
If you’re a survivor, what lessons have you learned? Who or what inspires you? How do you celebrate life? If you like, feel free to share your thoughts with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.