I’m Thankful I Went from a Cancer Survivor to a Cancer Thrivor

Cynthia Bailey, MD|November 24, 2014

thrive with breast cancer - Dr. Bailey breast cancer thrivor

 

Have you or someone you love been hit with the diagnosis of breast cancer? Odds are that you have. This year,  1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. This means that you will know - or be - a woman with breast cancer... like me.

When breast cancer strikes, is it possible to actually do more than survive the diagnosis and treatment? Can we actually thrive in the midst of the trauma? With breast cancer, how can we go from just surviving to actually thriving with it? Is it possible, or is it too much to ask?

During this season of Thanksgiving, as people come together to celebrate life, family, and friends, it often turns into a time of reflection as well. This year I definitely have a lot to reflect upon.

My breast cancer diagnosis last year was the biggest 2 x 4 ever to hit my life. I know the same is true for many of the women diagnosed with breast cancer. When I got my diagnosis, after I began recovering from the initial shock of course, I had to ask myself two questions:

1.) Am I just some tragic schmuck who got hit with this by random bad luck? Was I like the 1 in the 8 women to pull the short straw and “win” this booby prize? (No pun intended! Well, maybe...)

2.) Or, alternatively, did this happen for a reason? Is there something I’m supposed to do or change?  IS THERE A MESSAGE IN THIS FOR ME THAT I SHOULD TRY TO HEAR?

I decided to try to listen for the message. I’m sort of hard-wired that way, to look for the silver lining. I’m also hard-wired to think that things happen for a higher reason that my rational brain doesn't always understand.  This 2 x 4 surely warranted my full attention.

Thrive with Breast Cancer

As I listened, I gained insight. As I gained insight, I made changes. What happened, in retrospect, was that I went from an emotional train wreck who was fragile and fearful to someone actually thriving in spite of chemotherapy and a series of large and very unwanted surgical procedures. For my type of breast cancer, the treatment goes on for at least a year. In that year, I moved from barely surviving to fully thriving.

As a breast cancer survivor, I want to help other women who are about to enter this journey, who are currently in this journey, or who are still stunned from the journey. I believe that we can ALL go from breast cancer survivors to breast cancer thrivors!

For me, the transformation took a fundamental change of perspective on my diagnosis. It took a lot of help from my family, my friends, and some very fortuitous community resources, and from my openness to seek their help. It also took me making some scary decisions on a leap of faith.

If you or someone you love has breast cancer, or has had the disease, I want to challenge you to ask for more than survival. Ask to thrive – how can your life get even better for you because of this 2 x 4 diagnosis and all the traumatic treatment that ensues? Is it possible? I believe it is.

I am so thankful this year for not only surviving but also thriving this breast cancer ordeal. I am also grateful for the medical advances that made this possible and for the advocacy organizations, such as FORCE, that keep scientific development focused on breast cancer. There are many stories I could share with you, and likely will one day, that further detail my journey. It hasn't been easy, and there are times that I would have laughed in your face, if you told me I'd be talking about thriving with cancer today! But, through a miracle from God, the law of karma, or whatever, I am; and for that, I am thankful.

What are you thankful for this year?

Has your past year been similar to mine? I'd love to hear your stories, questions, or comments in the Facebook comments window below on your year or on my breast cancer journey and how I arrived to thrive with breast cancer.

 

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