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Cancer Challenged Me to Try Something New Every Single Day

October 12th, 2015 |
Travel

by Dragonflyangel | Survivor: Breast Cancer    Connect


When two best friends were both diagnosed with breast cancer, they took on the opportunity of a lifetime: to challenge each other to do one new thing every day for an entire year. What they are finding out is just how much fun life can be when you dare yourself to do something new.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, at the age of 32. I thought I took one for the team. It was crazy enough that I got cancer, but I thought for sure this meant my friends were in the clear. I was so young with no family history--cancer wasn't even a word in my vocabulary.

I went through a bilateral mastectomy, immediate reconstruction, and chemotherapy. It was a long, tough road, but I made it through. Then three years later, the words "you have cancer" were told yet again, but this time they weren't directed towards me. They were for my best friend, someone I've known since she was born: Colleen. She was my oldest friend and someone I call my sister, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27.

Our families united together, as they have for all our lives. First to help me and then to help Colleen through her journey. We lived across the street from each other in a Chicago suburb our entire lives. Our families did everything together from BBQ's to trips to Vegas. We were all one big family. That's why it was such a shock for us both to get cancer before either of us turned 35.

It's been three years now since Colleen's diagnosis. To celebrate both of our long and hard fought battles with cancer, Colleen had the idea to do something different for 2015. She had seen another cancer survivor, Luann Cahn, talk about her year of firsts in which she wrote about in her book, I Dare Me. She challenged herself to do one new thing a day for an entire year. She talked about how it was life changing and got her out of her slump.

On a cold evening towards the end of the year, Colleen told me what she planned for 2015 and asked me to join her. She wanted to chase the adventure and challenge herself to try one new thing a day for an entire year. I have to admit I was a little hesitant. How were we going to come up with 365 new things to do? In any case, I figured "Why not" and dove into the challenge head-first with Colleen. Our day one would be January 1st, 2015.

We call our challenge "Life It Up 365."

We each do one new thing a day and post our little adventure on our "Life It Up 365" Facebook page. Some days we do something together and some of the days we each do our own. We have a done a number of things so far that I never would have had the courage to do.

The biggest so far is the Chicago polar plunge we did! We also planned the trip of a lifetime with our families and went to Ireland this past June. Some of the individual adventures for me included seeing the Panama Canal, learning to tie a tie, and eating a pomegranate. Colleen has gone to Hawaii and started nursing school. To say this year has been amazing would be an understatement. I never realized how much I hadn't done until I started making my list of all the things I wanted to try this year. Some of the new things have been little, like throwing boiling water into freezing cold air, listening to NPR, and writing a letter to a soldier.

The whole point of this journey was to push ourselves to go outside of our comfort zones. This adventure so far has shown us how to really live. "Life It Up 365" has challenged us in ways we have never been challenged before. It has taught us to take the adventurous route. I truly know now that there are so many things in life to experience and to enjoy! That was a hard concept to grasp during and after battling cancer. Thanks to this experience, we are living and loving the life we both fought so hard to keep!

Have you tried something new recently? Share in the comments below!


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Dana Stewart is a 5-year breast cancer survivor, diagnosed at the age of 32. After going through a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction as well as chemotherapy, Dana knew that she wanted to help other young adults going through what she had. She is an Illinois State Leader for Young Survival Coalition and started her own organization called The Dragonfly Angel Society – Cancer Survivorship. She focuses on survivorship and helping survivors deal with life after treatment ends. You can connect with Dana on IHC under the username Dragonflyangel .

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