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One Year Post Chemo: What Cancer Taught Me

12 Things Cancer Taught Me


I Finished Chemo

I can't believe a year ago from today was my last day of chemo.  The picture above is the length of my current hair. Crazy to think it has grown so much! A year ago, I thought it would be impossible for my hair to grow back.

I remember the last day of chemo so vividly.  That morning I was so anxious. I kept praying and hoping that my numbers were at the appropriate level to receive chemo that day. I didn't want any further delay because I just wanted to be done. I was fed up with feeling so weak and sick from chemo. I missed so much how delicious food tasted and I couldn't wait to be able to enjoy eating again. Cycle after cycle, my body felt worn down and I was just tired of that.

Waiting for my blood test results was so nerve-wracking. As I mentioned above, I really wanted my numbers to be spot on. After what felt like hours, I received the results and was admitted to chemo. The nurses and staff were awesome. They knew that day could potentially be my last day of chemo. They gave me the biggest room so it could accommodate all of my immediate family. It was a day to celebrate!!

12 Things Cancer Taught Me
When that last drip completed, we were all jumping for joy, literally. It wasn't guaranteed at that time that it would be my official last day of chemo, but you know what, I cherished that moment. Luckily, after my mastectomy, it was concluded that I no longer needed chemo. However, I did have other treatments in my plan. But I didn't care, I was done with chemo. One thing to mark off.

Without a doubt, being diagnosed is scary. Heck, a lot of things you hear about cancer are pretty scary. When I first heard I had to go through chemo, I cried and cried and cried in the car after I left the hospital. There's that possibility of death that just hovers right over your head. But you know what, I learned a lot since I was diagnosed with cancer. Some are new things, some are things I already knew that were confirmed.

What Cancer Taught Me 

(in no particular order)


There's always a silver lining.

Yes, that is right. There's ALWAYS a silver lining. Not just on good days but on any type of day and scenario. Sometimes we have to look a little deeper. Sometimes we take some of the good things for granted that we don't realize we actually already have it good. I've heard a lot of heartbreaking news my entire life. Some are harder to accept. But no matter what, even in a tragedy, there is ALWAYS something good. It could be something as simple as your cup of coffee staying hot longer than usual, able to catch the bus on time, or catching every green light on the road. No matter what, there are always good things happening in your life. Even on bad days, there's more good things that happened than bad things.
12 Things Cancer Taught Me

There's more than one kind of cancer treatment.

I'll admit it, prior to diagnosis, I thought surgery and chemo were the only options for treating cancer. But there are SO many more treatment options out there. Each person's treatment plan can be very different and can contain any number or combination of treatment options. For me, it was chemo, targeted therapy, surgery, and hormonal therapy. Many people assume that because I finished chemo, I was done with getting treated. However, that was only one part of my treatment plan. After chemo, I started targeted therapy. My targeted therapy consisted of continuing to get one of my chemo drugs administered intravenous (aka - the process is just like chemo). However, instead of having the drugs target my entire body it targets a specific part of my body. It also has its own set of side effects.

Saying 'No'.

I used to be afraid to tell people 'no'. But after being worn down from treatments and trying to recover from side effects, it can be too much to agree to do even the most simple task. I learned that it is okay to take care of yourself. I used to feel like if I didn't have a legitimate excuse, then I couldn't say 'no' to people. I felt the reason behind my 'no' was not legitimate and so therefore I would agree to whatever someone asked me. For instance, I would agree to go out for dinner because I didn't think saying "I can't because I want to stay in after a long day" was an acceptable excuse. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But in reality, the people who love and care about you will understand. Not taking care of yourself (physically and mentally) can have harmful effects. So it is okay to give yourself a break.
12 Things Cancer Taught Me

The body is resilient.

I never fully understood this statement until I experienced what my body went through. My body went to hell and back, but guess what people, I am still here and living. It still needs work and time to feel better, but I'm all in one-piece. What we fail to realize is that the body's natural reaction when something goes wrong is to amend it and try to get it back to normal. It may take time, but the body can heal itself. It is amazing when I looked back (especially the photos in this post) how much my body has transformed.

Cancer is a lifelong journey.

This is a current revelation. The journey doesn't end after chemo, after surgery, or after any treatment. Getting better either physically, mentally, and/or medically, will take time and it may take the rest of your life. I learned to come to terms with this when I attended the YSC Summit and they validated all the things I was thinking and feeling. I'm not going to lie, it's not an easy road. Some days are so much harder than others and I can't explain why. But no matter what, I don't let cancer define me. It's ok to let it be part of my life. It has shaped me into who I am.

12 Things Cancer Taught Me

Don't compare.

I used to constantly compare myself to others, especially during the beginning of my diagnosis. I was sad I couldn't travel, I was jealous some people didn't lose their hair and I did, and I was worried that my treatment plan wasn't the same as someone else's with the exact same diagnosis. But what I found out is everyone is different. Everyone is at a different point in their lives and everyone's body is different. No one truly knows what someone else's life is like day in and day out. What type of struggles or hurdles that person is going through behind the scenes. It's best just to focus on you and work on you. And regarding my treatment plan being different from others with the same diagnosis? I learned that everyone's body is different and reacts differently and that each person's treatment plan is tailored to their own body.

Be Patient.

Have you ever waited in the oncology unit? Man, we would be in the waiting area for at least a couple hours until we got called in. It felt like my whole day was gone. But in the end, no matter how long it took, I did end up seeing my oncologist and I got what I needed. It's a lot like in life. Have you ever heard of the phrase 'good things come to those who wait'? Well, that may be a cliche, but it's never felt more true. No matter how long you have to wait, you can still get the results you were hoping for. It just takes patience.

My time is precious.

It truly is and I don't have time for any of the BS. Life can be short, but it doesn't mean we have to live in misery. I don't have the time to be surrounded by negative people, I don't have the time to do things I don't want to do, I don't have the time to consume my life with work, and I don't have the time to complain. We should enjoy life. Time will continue to tick and move on regardless of where we are in life. It's not worth it to give up a happy life. I'm not ashamed to say 'bye felicia' to drama. I can't help but roll my eyes at some people about the things they complain about day to day. Time is precious, so let's spend it on something worthwhile. I also thought putting in more hours at work meant something. I don't know what, but I thought it did. It took time away, precious time, from spending time with people I love or doing something I love. Work will always be there. Work to live, don't live to work.

Listen to your body.

Your body knows you the best. If you can't describe something but it feels wrong, call it out. When I did my breast exam, I felt like I was about to faint. I knew something was wrong. I wasn't sure if the lump got bigger or not, but it just wasn't right. Glad, I went to the doctor. If I didn't, I'm not sure where I'd be right now in my life. Even during treatment, I called out every single thing that just didn't seem normal. Yes, I will admit some were not a big deal, but I am glad I said something. Otherwise, it could have led me to some other serious issues.
12 Things Cancer Taught Me

I didn't give myself enough credit.

I never gave myself a chance or realized what I was capable of. Looking back, all the things I now think are awesome, cool, or would love to be able to do, are things I did do. But back then, I brushed it off like it was nothing or criticized myself that it wasn't enough. For my first marathon, I finished under 4 hours and at that time I was upset I didn't have a Boston marathon qualifying time. OMG, this girl needed to get a grip. That was my FIRST marathon and I was sad I didn't have a Boston marathon time?! If I can finish a 5K now, just finish and not in any specific time, I would be so grateful! Now, I embrace anything I am capable of doing. If I can wake up in the morning without feeling any aches or have a full day of work without fatigue, to me, that would be the best day ever.

It's good to age.

I'll admit it, I used to be one of those people who complained that I am 'getting old'. I now laugh at myself and slightly roll my eyes that I even had those complaints. I was diagnosed at 27, and I complained I was getting old?! Let's get real. This didn't hit me until I was diagnosed and realized I had gotten cancer at a VERY young age. I was practically an infant in the cancer world. Getting old is a privilege, actually more of a luxury. Not many people have this luxury and many take aging for granted. There are so many great things about getting old. I look forward to each and every day I get older.

It was a blessing.

If I heard myself say cancer was a blessing right when I was diagnosed I would have thought I was bat shit crazy. But looking back, there was actually a lot of good that came out of it (see, there's always silver linings). It gave me the opportunity to slow things down. We live in a world where everything should have be done yesterday and we are too focused on getting to the next thing without appreciating the current moment. Because I had to take breaks or take time off and needed assistance during treatment, it allowed me to step away from my day-to-day. My husband and I had more downtime together. We were both so focused with our careers, that there were times we couldn't enjoy things together. We had an epiphany last summer when we decided "let's go for a walk". That's when we realized that in previous summers, we would not have been able to do simple things like go for a walk on the lakefront together because either one or the other of us would have to work late or would be too exhausted to do anything. That was one of the best walks we ever had. It also confirmed the strength of our marriage. I know I married the best, and the hard times show people's true colors. My husband was an angel. I could not have asked for a better man to spend the rest of my life with. I can go on and on why it was a blessing, but I'll save that for a later post <3

12 Things Cancer Taught Me

I'm sure there will be more I will continue to learn or even some that I forgot to mention. My experience has truly been a learning experience especially for my mind, body, and soul. It sounds cliche, but every experience I have encountered in my life, there is always something to learn. We get better as we learn. I hope to continue to share what I learn for many, many years.

xo RD


42 comments:

  1. AWW, Rach, this was so moving to read and I'm literally in tears right now. You are so strong and beautiful, and I will forever admire you and your courage. Congrats on one year post chemo and here's to many more years. You are so amazing.
    Julia・Little Miss Haute Couture

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    1. Aww you are so sweet Julia! Thank you so much!

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  2. Although different journeys there are a handful of similar revaluations here. I was also the baby of my treatment range. I'm so happy I get to turn 30 soon. Every night I think about how lucky I am.
    You are a champion. And I love you.

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    1. Girl, you had quite the journey but you recovering so well! So impressed by you! Love you too!

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  3. Rach, this post truly moved me...You are such an inspiration and you are right: There's always a silver lining. I can speak from experience. I am with you, getting older is indeed beautiful! I will never ever take this for granted. Each new day is a blessing! And before I forget: You truly have an amazing husband!
    Sending hugs!
    Have a wonderful weekend, love!
    xoxo, Vanessa
    www.WhatWouldVWear.com

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    1. You are the sweetest and I am so grateful to have met you!

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  4. God bless you, Rach! You made my cry and at the same time you inspired me in so many different ways! Thank you so much for sharing! You are amassing inside and out and I am sure that all bad stuff is in the past. You understood and learned all life lessons very well. Best wishes!

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    1. I didn't mean to make you cry! Thank you so much for your sweet words Tatiana!

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  5. It's hard to believe it has been a year. You continue to amaze me. Thanks for sharing!

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

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  6. Wow, Rach. I still can't believe that it's been a year since you finished chemo. Heck, I still remember when you were diagnosed. You never fail to impress me with your strength. I love your positive attitude and I'm convinced it's one of the reasons you've been kicking Cancer's ass. And - I'm definitely guilty of freaking out about getting "old," but you're right - it's something to be PROUD of. You never know what tomorrow brings either <3

    Jackie

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    1. I know, I can't believe either! I remember telling you about it. So crazy to think! Thank you so much for your support Jackie!

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  7. Thank God you have come through victoriously! You're a strong woman lady. We sure don't know until we encounter something. I love the lessons here. Definitely things to live by even without experiencing something terrible as cancer. Thank you for sharing. Great reminder!:-)

    http://missymayification.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. I do thank God every single day! Thank you Missy!

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  8. Every time you talk about your journey, I'm always struck by how strong and inspiring you are. I think these are important lessons for all of us to keep in mind, especially putting yourself first sometimes and listening to your body. Thanks for sharing this!

    Nicole
    Nicole to the Nines

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    1. Aww thanks so much Nicole! I didn't expect to learn anything throughout this, but as mention it is ironic that it was a blessing.

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  9. This words are so motivational Rach. You're a true warrior and an inspiration for a lot of people out there!
    x,abril
    The Color Palette

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  10. Congratulations Rach. I hope you all the best.
    http://societyfix.blogspot.com/

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  11. So happy for you , Your post is so moving and inspiring ....you look gorgeous !!
    also check out my blog

    https://thefashionsateen.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/cheers-to-weekend/

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  12. You are my modern hero! This was so inspirational to read and I'm sure you've moved a lot of people who get to read this!

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

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  13. First, you are sooo amazing! I love this post. So inspiring! I've never had a "call" with death myself, but when my Husband was in his motorcycle accident, with less than a 2% chance of survival, that sure taught me a lot about how I wanted to live my life from that moment on. You are clearly very strong, emotionally, mentally, physically. Rock on girl!

    http://www.thekaragon.com

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    1. Omg Kara, that must have been a scary experience. I am so sorry you had to go through but it sounds like you came out stronger! I hope you and your husband are doing well! Thank you Kara!

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  14. This is such a beautiful post! You are such an inspiration! x

    www.fromluxewithlove.com
    www.bloglovin.com/blogs/from-luxe-with-love-14590195

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  15. Hi Rach,

    What a beautiful and moving post. I admire how strong and brave you are. You came a long way and I pray that you will remain cancer-free for the rest of your life. Thank you for sharing with us what cancer taught you. It was a reminder that we should all be grateful when we are healthy and well and don't take anything for granted.

    P.S. I organize link up on my blog, feel free to share your latest article. It will be my pleasure to have you.
    XO
    Miri

    http://currentlywearing.com/2017/07/09/simple-gestures-matter/

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    1. Thank you so much Miri and your prayers mean so much to me!

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  16. I can't believe it's been a year already! That means I've been following your blog for over a year because I can remember when you posted you were cancer free. I'm praying you will be free from it forever. Thanks for continuing to share your journey with us.

    xoxo
    Rina Samantha
    http://www.andshedressed.com

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    1. Isn't it crazy?! Time goes by so fast! Thank you Rina!

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  17. You're truly a warrior, this post was really sentimental, thanks for sharing this with us ♥

    www.heresometimes.com

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  18. You are such a beautiful and inspiring lady. Thank you for this xxx

    Filipa xxx
    PlayingWithApparel.com | Instagram

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  19. I have been following you blog since then and I cannot believe it is already a year, so proud of you strong girl!

    Camila,
    My Vogue Style | www.myvoguestyle.com

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    1. I know! Thank you so much Camila and your continued support!

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  20. wow...you are so brave! Thank you for sharing your story with us :)

    Laura
    Pink Frenzy

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