I am at a point in my life where discussing cancer doesn't phase me. No, I do not have cancer, tumors or any varying degree of the disease. But. (Always with the but) I am surrounded by cancer patients and survivors all the time.
One in particular.
Her mom, Brenda, has had cancer 9+ times. (I want to say 11, but I don't remember the exact number and I'm trying not to exaggerate the situation.) Breast, lung, back, different "spots" all over. She told me once she is just "pre-disposed" to cancer. Allison's brother, John, has diabetes and Brenda told me just as John lives with diabetes, she lives with cancer. It just "likes" her and no matter what it never seems to leave for long.
Brenda was first diagnosed when Allison was 2. She is now bordering on 16. Can you imagine living your life, waiting on pills and needles for the next time your mom is diagnosed with cancer? Sitting around, hoping every scan is clear and free of spots so the roller coaster of treatment doesn't start off again? Guarding your heart and your days, spending every minute worrying and waiting?
Well neither can Brenda and Allison.
Brenda is an inspiration. She deals with cancer. Deals with it and moves on. She doesn't dwell on it, tries not to worry and really lives her life as if nothing is wrong. Brenda takes each day as it comes and doesn't "borrow trouble," as she is always on my case for doing. ;) Brenda once said to me the minute she thinks cancer will beat her is the minute it will. If she keeps herself in the mindset that it's just another day in her life, nothing huge to overcome just something to deal with, she'll be fine.
Allison lives her life the same way. Sure, there's been tough days for her where she's crying in my office out of fear and frustration. And believe me, I've cried right along with her. Her mom has had good days and bad days, sick days but many more healthy ones. We've worried and fretted together and then "slapped" ourselves out of it. Allison really tries to live her life as her mom has shown her. Strong, standing up to the face of adversity. Not believing in failure and not accepting defeat in any area of life. (Side bar: if you read my blog often, this is the same Allison that we call "the baby whisper" for her innate ability to calm Trace down when no one else can!)
These two women have taught me more in the last 6 years. I've learned a TON about cancer. I've learned about diabetes. I've learned how to make chicken paprikash. On top of all the life lessons they have taught me! So I thought today, in loving honor of Brenda and Allison (and John, of course) I'd share my top 10 list.
Ten Life Lessons I've Learned
10. Hair grows back. From a bad hair cut or from chemo, it will grow back.
9. It is our responsibility to support cancer research and also to support those going through treatments. It's not just a nice thing to do. Not something to do tomorrow. It must be done today, right now, before one more person passes away from this awful disease.
8. Cancer is just an illness, not a mythical beast that requires a centaur and a golden arrow to defeat. Face it head on and without fear.
7. Family is the people you are born to love AND the people you choose to love. Choose wisely.
6. Give. Give everything you have and more. Time. Resources. Ideas. Give until it hurts. Put goodness out in to the world and it will come back to you when you most need it.
5. It's okay to ask for and accept help when you need it.
4. Push yourself to new limits and new extremes.
3. Eat healthy. Stay active. Get regular check ups. Do self breast exams. Ask medical questions and expect understandable answers. Be an advocate for your own health and the health of your children. Don't like the answer you got? Get a second opinion. Choose to be the exception to each disease.
2. Stand up and fight. Don't take hard times lying down. Get up and do something about it. Even if the only thing you can do is take your pills on time, DO IT. Be courageous. Be a warrior.
1. Always. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. Think positive. Your mindset determines the outcome. Don't let bad thoughts dictate your mindset. Push them aside and think positive.
I'm so thankful that by opening the dance studio, I have come to call these wonderful people part of my "family." My life is changed for the better because of someone else's cancer.