August 17th was my five-year survivorversary. I can’t believe how fast five years have come and gone. It’s like I blinked and went from cancer diagnosis to receiving the 5-year all clear. Of course, while going through everything, it felt like the end of the world. But now it’s a distant memory. Crystal clear yet blurry. Life altering. A place I would never want to go back to, but a place I’m extremely glad I came from. To celebrate, I’m sharing my five life balancing mantras that I learned over the last five years.
1. Know Your Priorities
My health actually declined after treatment ended. I was more sick after treatment than I was during treatment. I was in recovery and still struggling. When my boss said to me, “Your health and your family don’t matter,” I knew I had to make a change. Immediately.
I had spent the first 20 years of my career climbing the corporate ladder with enormous success. At this point, I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. My health and family absolutely do matter. They are worth more than any job or income. I walked away from one of the highest positions in the federal government without any regrets. I now work a normal job with normal hours. I have zero stress at work, and I’m home in time to care for my stepson after school. My health and my family matter more than anything. Period. Nothing will get in the way of either one.
2. Know Your Fortitude
It took my doctors an entire year after treatment ended to figure out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, which is a thyroid disease. My guess is that chemo and/or radiation knocked my thyroid out of whack, but we will never know for certain the actual cause. Despite the diagnosis and subsequent medicine, I still felt sick. I struggled with extreme fatigue, migraines, stomachaches, space shuttle launches in the bathroom five to six times a day, dizziness… the list goes on. Between chemo and Hashi’s, I thought that feeling this way was my lot in life. I thought that I would have to struggle every day for the rest of my life, so I did what I could to survive and only complained when it got really bad. I was confident in my choice for treatment and accepted having to feel this way was the smaller price to pay to do away with the chance of cancer coming back.
Every day, I woke up sick and did a mental self check, “Do I feel better or worse than I did during cancer?” And then went about my day pretending that my health was normal. Compared to cancer, pretty much everything else that life hands you is the equivalent to a hangnail. I told myself day in and day out, “If I can get through cancer, I can make it through today.” In weakness comes strength.
3. Know Your Body
In February 2015, six months shy of my five-year survivorversary, I had a light bulb moment. I conducted my own research like my life depended on it. Because it did. I learned that my “healthy eating” was actually what was harming me. Due to the chemo and Hashi’s, some prolific inflammation kicked in and set my auto-immune system on overdrive. I was eating the correct nutrients, but my body was rejecting them. Toxins were leaking into my bloodstream and causing my body to attack itself.
Overnight and completely cold turkey I went 100% gluten free and then became a “pesco-baco vegan.” Within three weeks, the fatigue was manageable, and the stomachaches and migraines were gone. And in case you are concerned about my BMs – totally normal! I eliminated additional foods on the Autoimmune Protocol such as corn, nightshades, peanuts and quinoa. A food sensitivity blood panel came back to confirm what I had already put into action. It wasn’t the chemo or the Hashi’s which was causing me to be sick every day, it was my food. Within four months, I was about 90% back to my old self. I felt “normal” and started back into an exercise program. After four and a half years, I was able to begin enjoying life again the way it should be enjoyed.
My story and my journey are extreme, but I am so completely blessed to have been able to listen to my body and push for answers. I’ve used my blog as an awareness platform to tell my story, because whether it’s cancer, thyroid issues, food issues, or anything else… too often as women we are scared to rock the boat. We take care of everyone else, but we don’t take care of ourselves. I urge you to listen to your body and don’t be afraid to keep pushing for answers when you feel that something is wrong.
4. Know Your Passion and Purpose
Throughout this journey, I’ve become completely focused on my mission and purpose in life. As of this writing, I still work full time outside of the home but am making progress every day to walk away for good. The blog has given me the opportunity to connect with and inspire so many women. I’ve changed the focus to be more home and family based with articles on decor, design, DIY, recipes, family, inspiration, healthy living, etc but it’s still a platform for me to share my story and raise awareness for early detection of cancer.
In addition to my “breast-seller” The Coconut Head’s Cancer Survival Guide, I’ve written an e-book called Drops of Fortitude which is a short e-read. I also published a children’s book My Mommy Has Cancer which was written from a child’s perspective to talk to another child about cancer and is illustrated by children of survivors.
There is a level of peace that comes with being in the place you know you are supposed to be and following your passion and purpose in life. I am living my life with no regrets.
I need to leave you hanging somewhere, right? Visit my blog coconutheadsurvivalguide.com/blog to read my life mantra number 5.