How Cancer Taught Me The Meaning of Self Love
If you struggle with defining self love and what it means to you, especially after having cancer, then continue reading below.
I was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer in May of 2006. Treatment included surgery to remove my right ovary and six rounds of chemo. Four years later I had a recurrence which we caught super early thanks to my spidey sense. I am treating naturally this time with diet and supplements - working with a naturopath, acupuncturist and my oncologist on an integrative path. I had a second recurrence in the summer of 2013 and had another surgery to remove several large masses from my abdomen.
Even after being a few years cancer free, I still visit my acupuncturist, and recently, we started having a conversation about New Year's Resolutions, He told me that most New Year's resolutions are discarded by Valentine's Day, which isn't surprising to me. I would guess that it's even earlier than that. The new year gives us a clean slate upon which to create our lives, and most of us are tempted to set goals or make "resolutions" about our behavior. WHY then, are those things given up so early in the game?
Before cancer, my resolutions were alarmingly similar from year to year - lose weight, eat more vegetables, make more money (or spend less), exercise more often, blah, blah. At the end of every year, I would admit defeat in achieving most of my aims. I didn't track closely to measure my success, and it would become tedious quickly to note how many vegetables I ate in a given week (probably effective, but tedious). So like most other people, I gave up.
But after dealing with cancer, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of setting a bunch of goals about how to "fix" myself into the ideal person I envisioned, I would instead recognize that I am pretty great as I am. While fixing and changing is unappealing, creating intentions about how I wanted to feel, things I wanted to do, and living through possibility was exciting. So I decided to create a theme for the year.
I have created a collage of words and phrases around my theme and it has hung near my bed so it is the first thing I see when I wake up and the last before I go to sleep. At the end of the year, it is fun to look over it and recognize all the ways in which that theme showed up throughout the year.
That first year, my theme was EASE. I wrote it in bubble letters with a bright blue sharpie and posted it on the bulletin board above my desk. I also bought an easy button (you know, from Staples), and put it on my desk to whack anytime I desired something to be easier. Because it was simple, straightforward and easy to notice when I needed more ease, I created much more of it in my life that year. And the great news is that it didn't just stick that year, but has stayed with me ever since.
The following year my theme was "sharing the miracle of me," brought forth from some business coaching I received. It was bold for me to declare that I had something miraculous to offer, but as the year played out and I released my book, Being Single, With Cancer: A Solo Survivor's Guide to Life, Love, Health and Happiness, I traveled around the country to speak about it. I began coaching cancer survivors and singles to heal. I could see that something miraculous was indeed taking place in my life and of those I touched.
Last year I chose the most important theme yet: loving myself. This encompasses forgiving myself for any mistakes in my past, choosing to take care of myself through eating well, sleeping enough and exercising (but without the pesky numbers attached to make me feel badly if I don't do something x times a week). It also meant setting clear boundaries, and only saying yes to those things I was really excited about doing. I think loving and healing ourselves is the most important (perhaps even the ONLY) task we have on Earth. It is the key that makes everything else we want to do possible.
If you've been thinking about setting a goal or theme for 2016, it's not too late, don't settle on that theme you feel you "should" choose. Allow yourself to dream about what is most fulfilling. What lights you up, makes you feel yummy and supports your highest good? Doesn't that feel so much better than trying to "fix" something about yourself that you feel is lacking? Nothing is lacking. You are fantastic just the way you are. So find a way to build on that instead and be more of YOU this year!
I would love to hear your theme. Share it below and get support from this community for 2016.
Tracy Maxwell is a three-time ovarian cancer survivor, author, blogger and founder of Solo Survivors – providing healing coaching, adventures and trips for single survivors and others. Her book, "Being Single, with Cancer: A Solo Survivor’s Guide to Life, Love, Health & Happiness" was released in August, 2014. You can read more about her programs, services and book at www.IAMTracyMaxwell.com and connect with her on IHC under the username tracymax.