Very few life-altering situations COMPLETELY change your mind about the meaning of life. For me, cancer changed everything.
I vividly remember when I received the call in April of 2015. I was 31 years old, sitting in the occupational health office at my new hospital, waiting for a physical to prove I could do the job. My husband and I had just moved from Boston to Florida for me to accept this position in healthcare.
I was completely healthy…except I wasn't. The mole that had been removed 5 days before came back as melanoma.
The PA on the phone with me admitted that the biopsy didn't remove all of the melanoma and I would need surgery. She asked if I had any questions. I said no.
I sat for a minute in shock before I was called into my physical. I felt the irony of my cancer diagnosis while sitting on the exam table looking young and healthy. I was used to being the person providing the care – not the one in need. I realized I'd have to learn to be a patient.
This was the first in a LOT of realizations I would have throughout my battle.
Having cancer opened my eyes; I became aware of shortfalls in healthcare as well as shortfalls in my life. The past two years have helped me to dig into my strengths, my weaknesses, and my goals. I'm stronger now than I ever imagined. But this didn't happen overnight.
At first, I got swept into all the negative emotions that cancer brings.
The fear, the anxiety, and the "why me" and "what if" questions flooded my thoughts. I felt hopeless. I would cry randomly and lie in bed at night with my head swimming. One day after my first surgery I was again asking myself these questions. What was my purpose in life?
I found my mind going down the rabbit hole of sadness once again and I said to myself that this was no way to live. I couldn't let my cancer live my life for me.
I decided right then and there that cancer wouldn't win.
I had prepared myself for the physical battle of surgeries and treatment, but no one can expect the mental battle. I began reading books to help me regain my happiness and calm my fears. Through my research and reading, I found that I was letting my thoughts run a muck. So many studies show that we can control our outcomes based on our mindset. Control your thoughts, control your happiness and wellbeing.
Amazingly, I created a new way of life. Using mindfulness, journaling, and a healthier lifestyle, I became happier than I could ever imagine DURING treatment. Now that I'm through treatment, I see daily blessings in ways I never knew possible.
Now I would NEVER want to go back to my pre-cancer life.
The shock and sadness of cancer can easily overwhelm anyone. Please do not let cancer take over your life – you are so much more than this awful disease. Take charge of your mental health and tell the cancer fears to take a hike!
You can see more about Lauren's story on her blog www.WithinMySkin.com or on IHadCancer username WithinMySkin.