At 27, I was an up-and-coming news reporter (or so I hoped) in a small town about 90 minutes north of Phoenix.
Then I got cancer. Through treatment, surgery, and recovery, I had to reach into the depths of my soul to find reasons to keep going. In honor of October’s designation as breast cancer awareness month, I wanted to share four life lessons from breast cancer.
1. You are not responsible for all the world’s problems.
The world isn’t perfect. Good-hearted, sensitive souls often take this weight on as their own. Please don’t. Let it go. Give back, volunteer, work towards solutions if you wish, but don’t let it weigh you down or extinguish your passion.
Because we did not create these problems. It’s not your fault. Live and work from passion, not from the weight of responsibility. That has been one of the biggest life lessons from breast cancer.
Somewhere along the journey, I realized that I became a newspaper reporter not because I was interested in the news of the day, but because I felt responsible for fixing the world.
Acting from responsibility doesn’t lead to happiness or even fulfillment because nothing will ever be perfect. Fixers will always find more to fix. Self-sacrifice is not always virtue.
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2. The purpose of life is to enjoy it.
We’re just visitors to this planet. Eventually, we leave and our souls go wherever souls go. It doesn’t matter how hard we worked or how many awards we won. What matters is walking gently, treating people kindly, and respecting life.
After the diagnosis, I remember sitting on my front porch and looking at the trees, the grass, hearing the birds sing and thinking how crazy this magical world is that we get to inhabit for a few decades or even a century, if we’re lucky. One of the life lessons from breast cancer was that life isn’t as serious as I made it out to be.
Before cancer, I was constantly trying to figure out the meaning of life and what my purpose was. It seemed like the most important thing.
But I think when we approach things with such heaviness, they become less fun. And the point of life is to enjoy as much as possible. Because it all passes. The only thing constant is change.
Enjoy the simple things. Because in the end, simple things are the only things.
3. Soul travel can be as adventurous as land travel.
Sometimes, adventure isn’t really about the adventure. It’s about escaping ourselves. Stillness forces us to face ourselves.
Before cancer, I was a total nomad. I lived in seven states in three years.
But afterwards, I was stuck living in a small town when all I wanted to do was move on. And even now, I’m living in a place that isn’t my first choice. But feeling stuck outside led me to search for freedom inside.
If the time has come to be still, fighting against it makes it worse. And it’s only by accepting stillness that we can begin to figure out how to move again.
Stillness is a profound teacher. In many ways, the life lessons from breast cancer have made my life better than it ever has been.
4. Life is short, buy the shoes!
Sure sunsets make life grand, but so do cute shoes! And clothes! I was seriously cheap before I got cancer — partly because newspaper people make no money — but afterward, I found ways to make extra money so I could buy cute things!
One of the life lessons from breast cancer was that it’s important to just have fun and pamper yourself. Often before, I felt like I didn’t deserve it, or it didn’t matter. But in truth, it does.
For several years, I joked that cancer made me shallow. Because it did for a while. When I had no hair, not even eyebrows or eyelashes, all I wanted to do was coat mascara on so incredibly thick that you could see my lashes from miles away.
Working solely to make money to buy stuff is empty and meaningless, but so is not enjoying pretty or luxurious things that are fun and make you feel good.
So, don’t go broke but life is here to enjoy. So enjoy!
What has been your greatest life lesson? Share in the comments below.