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Cancer Didn't Change My Life. I Changed My Life.

Updated: Nov 10


I’m a different kind of survivor.


In many stories that I see online, those who suffered something truly tragic frame their story in a way that suggests the tragic event changed their entire life overnight. I’m not discounting this very real mindset, it just wasn’t my experience at all, and I want to share that.

Yes, I had cancer. And it did change my life. But no event, no matter how tragic, will change your life unless you change your thinking first.


I’ve talked openly before about the fact that I was a certified workaholic when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was annoyed that I had to go to the doctor in the first place, checking my email all the while. When the doctor told me I had an enormous tumor and there was a 90% chance it was cancerous, my life flashed before my eyes. I was certain my kids would be left without a mother. That’s a scary thing to come to terms with.


And yet.


I wanted to go back to work. My gut reaction was to schedule the surgery for three weeks out because I just couldn’t fit it into my schedule. I actually remember the clients I was worried about and the colleagues I was nervous couldn’t survive without me. I rushed recovery so I could get back to the office. I just knew that people were counting on me. I couldn’t let them down. I didn’t have time to put myself first.

If I’m being honest with myself, I wasn’t ready to change.


So what that I had had cancer? So what that I almost died? It didn’t mean I had to change my entire life. As scary as cancer was, change was scarier.


It wasn’t until a few months later, when something else happened in my professional life, that made me ready to dive off the deep end. I was finally ready to make the change in my life, so I did. I wish I could say that facing my own mortality was enough to force me to upend my life entirely, but that would be a lie. Because here’s the thing that you won’t hear in a lot of survivor stories: you don’t need to have cancer to change your life, because the cancer wouldn’t even change you. (And you can sub out “cancer” for any huge life event.)


It doesn’t matter what happens in your life. If you’re not ready to make a change, you won’t.

I’m a different kind of survivor.

That should empower you. It means that you have the power to change today, if you want to. You don’t have to wait for a traumatic life event or a “sign” letting you know it’s time. Take control of your own life story. I was forced to confront my own death in a very real way, and it wasn’t enough to make me chase my dreams.


There are many kinds of survivors out there. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. A miracle, they told me. They caught it as early as possible, and that’s the only reason I was able to make a full recovery. I’m blessed to even have had the opportunity to wait to make a change.


You don’t have to wait.


If you want to make a change, do it now. Don’t wait for cancer. You’re only wasting time, like I did.

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