6 Things I’ve Learned After Having Cancer

doctors don't call at recess: cancer lessons

Doctors don’t call teachers at recess

I distinctly remember getting the call. I was teaching sixth grade English and it was a Tuesday morning at recess when the phone rang. My first thought was that doctors don’t call teachers at recess for no apparent reason, so what the heck was this phone call about?

He told me the news that my pap smear came back “abnormal” – but he assured me that after another test, we’d probably find that either it was a false reading, or it would be some other “minor” thing. I was scared.

Additional tests led to a few in-patient procedures, more tests, my official cancer diagnosis, and eventually a radical hysterectomy all in a matter of a few short weeks.

Fast forward, twelve years later

Each year with the arrival of spring, I am reminded of how blessed I am. On April 21, 2015 it will be my 12th cancer-versary, the day I beat my cancer. From my diagnosis to my cure, and beyond, I believe God has helped me through it all, because He’s just so cool like that.

Why do I get to be a survivor and so many others don’t? I can’t say. Very early detection, terrific doctors, a great support system, and the power of prayer all played a role. All I know is I am very fortunate and I no longer take my health for granted.

This week I sat down to make a list of the some things I’ve learned after having cancer (narrowed down to my top 6). I don’t wear a white coat or claim to be a medical professional, but reflecting on this list gives me encouragement on the lowest of days.

I hope it will encourage you, too.

Lessons I’ve Learned From Cancer:

1. Time is more important than things

Things come and go. Money comes and goes. Time? Well, it just goes… it’s the one thing you can never get back. Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with a serious illness, cancer or otherwise, to realize this. You know that saying, “live like you are dying”? Do that.

2. Financial security is non-negotiable

The moment I was diagnosed, my thoughts scrambled into a million different directions, but one very scary thought was that I wasn’t ready to leave my children in a secure financial place if I were to suddenly leave this earth. If you have debt, start living within your means and get rid of it as soon as you can.

3. There is power in the word “no”

In the past, saying yes too often meant I got less sleep, less exercise, more stress, and a weakened immune system, which literally almost killed me. Now, if saying yes means that I have to give up other personal priorities, I remind myself that I need to prioritize, and I just won’t always be able to make everyone happy. Learn to discern what gets a thumbs up or down in your life, and you’ll be healthier and happier in the long run.

4. Education is a life-saver

Ideally, the time to learn how to live the healthiest life you can is before having cancer or another serious illness. There is an abundance of great information out there on how to live a healthy lifestyle, like this one from the Mayo Clinic or this one from Prevention. Read up. Learn all you can. Then make a plan to make some changes, even if just a few.

5. You must take care of you

While it’s true that not every illness is avoidable, a lot of what’s killing Americans today is a result of us not taking care of ourselves. Don’t take the body God gave you for granted. It’s a miraculous machine that can take a beating, that’s for sure, but it won’t last forever. Put yourself at the top of your priority list. Take care of YOU!

6. Faith heals

One of the most tragic things I’ve seen cancer do to people is steal away their hope. Faith, for me and for millions of others, helped me regain that hope and find strength to somehow keep waking up. Doctors, medicine, and technology can address the physical body, and no one knows when our last day on the planet will be, but while we are still here our faith can be a source of antibodies for our soul, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the illness.

Finally, here are some words that have helped me during some of the tough times. Please share with someone you love who needs to hear it. Here’s to many more years of health and wellness!

Sorrow may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’
Robert Orben

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
Cayla Mills

At any given moment you have the power to say this is NOT how the story is going to end.
Author Unknown.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Isaiah 40-29

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

 Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.
Mary Anne Radmacher.

What Cancer Cannot Do

Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love, It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith, It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship, It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage, It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life, It cannot conquer the spirit.
– Author Unknown

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