Cancer is an ugly monster.
It’s reared its gruesome head in my family, including my mother, in recent years.
Our family got hit with back-to-back scenarios: one relative would be diagnosed, while another was in remission.
Then shortly afterward, another would be diagnosed.
That frustrating, seemingly endless cycle lasted for awhile.
And when doctors tell you someone you love has cancer, it can take the wind out of you.
I know it did for me.
It made me sad at times, angry at other times.
And I was left feeling helpless, too.
That’s because cancer, in some ways, also proved to be like a substitute teacher: It pops in and doesn’t say how long it’s staying.
This we do know: more than one million people in the U.S. get cancer each year.
Maybe it’s impacted you, or someone you know.
Today, I wanted to share with you how my loved ones’ experiences with the bad guy changed how I lived.
(No particular order).
1. It taught me that support was instrumental and needed — more than I could have imagined. When my mother was diagnosed with stage three multiple myeloma, siblings and relatives kicked into go-mode. With a large Ethiopian family, we were fortunate to have a strong support network. From tracking medical documents to transporting mom to appointments, to siblings moving back home to become caretakers, the phenomenal support was truly there. That support carried my mom through the roughest times, even when doctors later found another cancer last year, in her left breast. I’m convinced our family’s unwavering support strong-armed cancer out of my mother’s body, kicking its butt out of town. Today, she is in remission. We are truly blessed.
2. It taught me to find more appreciation in the here and now. No one says living in the present is easy. But a cancer diagnosis did wake me up to living in the moment more. From 90-minute hot yoga sessions, to meditation, I experimented with becoming more mindful. I first started to meditate years ago, with a free trial from this site. (I’m still working on being more consistent with the practice!). It’s not hard to get started though. I find these tips helpful.
3. It taught me more compassion. When someone is dealing with cancer, their reaction to treatment can surprise you. It can change their behavior. As a reporter, I’ve covered countless tragedies and spoken to many families in their most painful moments. It’s heartbreaking and I appreciate their trust in sharing their stories with me. Cancer hitting my family greatly expanded my window of empathy and compassion for others.
4. It taught me that my health shouldn’t just be part of my priority list, but a No. 1 priority. After one of my aunts was first diagnosed, it prompted me to take on this 30-day cleanse. It’s not for everyone, but it was the kick-start I needed to improve my overall health. Shortly afterward, I tried this green smoothie cleanse and I still use some of those smoothie recipes today. The cleanses changed how I felt inside and out. My new awareness to the way food impacted me mentally and physically shocked me. I even noticed a boost in my skin. The cleanses, plus dabbling in food/cancer research, led me to explore veganism, vegetarianism and, later, a pescatarian diet. As I explored more with food, I also started working out more, like I had in the past. The combination of an improved diet and increased exercise, felt really, really good. Here are some helpful tips to get started and stick to it.
5. It taught me to be more grateful for my faith. I’m so thankful that my faith in God was already firmly established, before cancer knocked on my family’s door. I couldn’t imagine not leaning on a higher power during that period, and listening to the new direction, that He would help me travel.
When I read this article to my mom (pictured in the photo above), she wanted me to ask all of you to get checked regularly by a doctor — and check yourself, too —that’s how she found a lump in her left breast in 2015.