Pushing Passed Setbacks: How My Cancer Scare Gave Me New Perspective
If you’re anything like me, you may have started off the year eager and ready to demolish every goal you set for yourself. You may have even created a vision board filled with beautiful images of the healthy body you planned to have by now, the financial freedom you were sure you’d be manifesting, and that much needed vacation you without a doubt knew you would be taking. You carefully planned out your goals, created the action plan, and visualized all the things you were going to manifest this year. Yet, here we are, 4 days before we end the first half of the year and you’re no farther along with your goals than you were on January 1st.
The beginning of the year is always a great time to start fresh and commit to all the things we want to accomplish, but even those with the best intentions and great plans can still fall short from achieving the goals they’ve set. Sometimes this happens because we set way too many goals for ourselves and in an attempt to accomplish them all, we fail to accomplish any. Other times, life throws us a curve ball that jolts us in unexpected ways and all our carefully mapped out plans seem to go flying out the window.
Lately, I have been feeling uninspired, unmotivated, and tired. Which is unusual for me. As I looked at my vision board and action plan the other day I realized I’ve yet to begin working on my six month goals. I started off the year full of energy and enthusiasm. I threw myself head first into growing my consulting and coaching business and in doing so failed to properly account for the increased workload and the strain it would put on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. My ambitious work ethic worked against me despite achieving my goal of growing my business this year. I was doing too much and though I knew I needed to slow down I kept forging forward.
By the time April came around I had tripled the number of workshops I have a year and I quadrupled the number of coaching clients I usually see. In four short months I had accomplished the goal I had given myself till the end of the year to achieve. I was exhausted and burned out and realized I had nothing left within me to focus on the other goals I set for myself for this year.
In May, the universe intervened when a health scare forced me to take a pause on my goals and refocus my attention on my body and my health. Two goals I had also decided to focus on this year, but up to that point hadn’t really committed to. The universe always has a way of redirecting us back towards exactly what we need to focus on.
On May 3, a routine mammogram turned into one of the scariest moments of my life when the radiologist discovered a notable mass in my right breast. As a 42 year old woman, I had held off two years on having a mammogram I should have had when I first turned 40. There was no specific reason for not having it done. I just didn’t feel an urgency to have one, but after my annual check up this year, my PCP encouraged me to get a mammogram. So I did.
What should have been a routine mammogram turned into five mammograms, two biopsies (US Guided biopsy and Stereotactic biopsy) and a month of waiting for the doctors to figure out whether or not it was cancerous. On June 14, more than a month since the first mammogram, I received a call from my doctor informing me the mass was a radial scar.
As she continued to talk and explain what a radial scar was my mind and attention was focused on whether I had cancer or not. She continued to explain that radial scars, when large enough to be picked up on a mammogram, can mimic the signs of breast cancer. She informed me that although the results of the biopsy indicated the mass was benign (non cancerous), often times the mass can contain cancer cells. She explained that because pre-cancer cells can form and grow in the mass I need to undergo breast surgery to remove it. Surgery frightens me too, but it’s better than the alternative (needing surgery and radiation).
When I hung up the phone I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. As I sat paralyzed in my office I began crying uncontrollably. Though I had put my complete faith in God there was still a part of me that kept thinking “what if I do have cancer?” The entire month I spent waiting to hear the results I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. In short, I was afraid. Even though I chose to remain faithful and trust God’s plan, that did not prevent me from feeling the very human emotions of fear, anxiety, and worry.
I thought about my two young children. How would a possible cancer diagnoses affect them and my ability to care for them in the way that they need? I thought about my husband and the burden a cancer diagnoses would put on him. As partners, we share the responsibility of taking care of the kids, the household chores, managing our finances and everything else it takes to run a household and take care of a family. What would happen if suddenly all that weight shifted to him while simultaneously having to support me on my healing journey.
I thought about work and whether I had enough vacation/sick time to cover the duration of any treatment I would need. Would we be able to cover our bills and expenses if I had to be out of work for a significant amount of time? All of these things weighed heavy on me and though I was doing a great job carrying it all, internally I was crumbling. It wasn’t until I received the results that I realized how much it all affected me. The tears rushed down my face full blown ugly cry. It was as if a levee broke and everything that was being held back suddenly came crashing forward. That release forced me to look at myself and my life and reevaluate some of the things I had convinced myself were a priority.
Up until that point I had put my health at the end of my priority list. My ambition to grow in my field and in my work had consumed me and I didn’t even realize it. My commitment to helping others and being of service to others resulted in me neglecting myself. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained, but I hadn’t realized it because I was filling myself with the successes and breakthroughs of the individuals and women I was helping through my seminars and coaching sessions. It wasn’t until I disconnected from all of it that I was able to see just how much I had been neglecting my own needs.
Now, as I meditate on what I want these next six months to look like for me, I am refocusing and putting the lens on myself. I am re-calibrating my internal GPS, refueling, and making sure that I am not operating on empty. I am committing to taking care of me first and then focusing on accomplishing personal and business goals.
What I am continuously learning is that if our foundation isn’t solid, if our basic needs (like health, safety, financial stability, having a home, etc) aren’t being met we cannot effectively work towards any other goals or dreams. It’s virtually impossible. We have to be well, first. If we’re not, nothing else matters.
As we approach the second half of the year I challenge you to do a self-assessment. In what ways have you been neglecting yourself? What are you avoiding that you should be focusing on? What are you holding on to that you should let go of? How will you use these next six months to put the focus back on yourself and your healing? Take some time to think through those questions and then commit the rest of the year to taking care of yourself. Your future self depends on it.