Determined to Live Happy

Teal Butterfly

I had been given a cancer diagnosis. I had fear. I had sleepless nights. I had surgeries. I had scars from my surgeries. I had a counter filled with medications. I had doctor appointments. I had CT scans. I had blood labs. I had chemotherapy infusions. I had medical bills. I had co-payments. I had a gazillion parking fees. These are the things I had.


Now for the things I lost…I lost my health. I lost my appearance. I lost my freedom. I lost my interest in things I used to love. I lost my ability to focus and pay attention to “normal” things. I lost my confidence. I lost my happiness. I lost my social life. I lost friends.


Cancer changed everything in my life.


Every morning while alone in my shower, I had a chance to privately process my fear of having a cancer diagnosis. During my shower I produced more water than what came from the shower head…there were lots of tears. My processing time in the shower became a ritual each morning before going to work. Like clockwork I would step into my shower and cry. I was scared. I was alone. Nobody could go on this journey for me. I had to do this one alone. Statistics for my cancer, specifically my cancer cell type, showed I had a survival rate (life expectancy) of 24 months. If lucky, maybe I would live 36 months. Like in the movie, The Green Mile with Tom Hanks, I could hear the words being called out, “Dead woman walking!” I felt like I was on death row awaiting my final day.


Then one day, after shedding my tears in the shower, I decided I could no longer live my life this way. I could no longer live in constant fear. I couldn’t bear this low mood of depression any longer. I didn’t want to continue feeling a victim of cancer. I had to take charge of my emotions. That day I decided to make the best out of every circumstance. I was determined to live life happy no matter how many days I had left to live.


Eleven years ago I changed my life while in the shower. Eleven years ago I took my first step towards my recovery. I truly believe I changed the course of my cancer diagnosis that day. While I was having things being done “to me” (surgeries, blood work, CT scans, chemotherapies), I began my journey doing something “for me”. I took action. I took control of my emotions. I was determined to live happy.


I read that when given a cancer diagnosis, the cancer patient must travel through the five stages of grief. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about the grief-loss model in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. The stages are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance


From my observations of myself on my own cancer recovery journey, I would add a sixth stage – one more critical stage. That sixth stage is ACTION.


Most cancer patients I met along my 11 year recovery journey stopped at acceptance. These cancer patients accepted their diagnosis and accepted their medical recommendations for treatment. What they also accepted was being a victim. As victims cancer patients willingly accept having things done “to them”.


I too made it to the fifth stage of acceptance. I was a perfect victim throughout my cancer treatment. I never fought the recommended protocol of treatment. I willingly accepted everything my oncologist ordered.


However, I went one step further. I created a sixth stage for myself. I took action. I took control of something I could do to improve my life. I took action to control the one thing I could do for myself 24-hours a day, seven days a week. I took action and it didn’t cost me a dime. I began to control my emotions. I was determined to live happy.


For example, instead of driving my car down the street, hitting a pot-hole and getting angry about the condition of the road, I now drive over the pot-hole and choose to say these words…”Nailed it!” What a difference in my mood these simple two words have made in my life.


Here is another example, instead of wincing at the sight of another needle being jabbed into my arm for a blood test, I now visualize all my blood cells happily moving through my arm, through the needle and into the vial like a group of people coming out from a comedy show – all smiling, laughing and happy – cancer-free!


It’s your turn. Decide to move into the sixth stage, the stage that may reverse your cancer diagnosis. Decide to take action. Do something good for yourself. Decide to control your emotions. If you want help taking action, contact me at spotmany. I want you to survive. I want you to outlive cancer. Be determined to live happy.