The picture on the left was taken December 10, 2016. It was just days after I found a lump above my collarbone, but before I had any inclination that it might be cancer. The picture on the right was taken this past Sunday, January 21, 2018. This was after I beat stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma. It was after I went through an intense 12 chemotherapy treatments. It was after my entire world was put on pause.
When the first picture was taken, I had just moved to Virginia to start a new job. It was a job that I didn’t think I deserved because I was so new to the business. Just by reading that last sentence you can probably tell that I severely lacked confidence. I did my best to fake it, but it wasn’t unusual for me to beat myself up over one bad show for an entire month, or to call my mom crying after receiving some hate mail, or to never wear a dress again because a viewer told me that they hated it (which happens way more often than it should). If I’m being completely honest with myself, I wasn’t really happy. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about my job, but I was in a new city all by myself and didn’t know anyone. With that said, my life mostly revolved around work.
When the second picture was taken, I had just moved back to Virginia to resume this same job after being out of work for almost 8 months. I now feel more confident than ever and I think that shows in this picture. Oddly enough, I owe my confidence boost mostly to cancer (along with the many self-help books that I read during treatment and that I can’t believe I’m admitting to). Now my attitude is, “if I can beat cancer, I can do anything.” Just in the short time that I’ve been cancer free I was able to send out Warrior Bags to over 30 men and women battling cancer along with another 30 children’s bags that are almost finished. These were sent to the recipients totally free of charge and I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. This was something I had wanted to do for months and kept telling myself it was too hard and I didn’t know how to start. As soon as I learned I beat cancer, I decided to get to work right away and the bags were shipped just a week later. I have some more big goals for myself this year and I’m no longer using “I don’t know how” or “it’s too hard” as an excuse.
Having cancer taught me to never waste a good day. While I was going through treatment, my good days didn’t come around very often so on the rare occasions that I was feeling well I always made sure I had something fun planned. I’m telling you this because we should all be following that rule everyday. Life is short, let’s enjoy it while it lasts!
I’ve also learned to stop caring what people think. I know this isn’t always easy to do, trust me I get it. After going through something as serious as chemo, you start to realize that some things in life just don’t matter anymore. For the most part, I haven’t received many rude comments since moving to Virginia, but on the rare occasion that I get one I’m able to put things in perspective and remember that a mean comment is a reflection of the person who wrote it, not of me.
I also feel a new appreciation for everything. The sky seems a little bluer, the grass is greener, and overall life is just good. I never thought I’d be so happy to go to work. It would drive me nuts to hear people complain about their jobs because I would’ve done anything to be in their position. I guess it’s true that you never really know what you have until it’s gone. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days at work. In fact, Monday was kind of a bad day, but instead of dwelling on it, I’m trying to stay appreciative of the fact that I’m finally able to work again. After I got home from my bad day, I went to the gym to clear my head and decided the next day would be better, and it was!
After reading that stack of self-help books, listening to endless TED talks, and doing some major self-evaluating, I decided that the key to happiness is gratitude. Instead of complaining, I try to say something positive. Using the work example, I try to say, “I GET to work today!” instead of, “I HAVE to work today.” I promise it makes a world of difference.
I also started a new habit. Every night before I go to sleep I write down three things that I’m grateful for. I write something different everyday and never repeat answers. At first this was really easy to do. I said things like my health, my family, my pets and so on. But as the days go by, those obvious things had already been used and I was forced to think of other things that we so commonly take for granted. For example, last night I wrote that I’m grateful to have an oven, grateful for one of my coworkers, and grateful for the internet (lol). They probably seem like silly answers, especially the last one, but these are things that many people throughout the world would consider a luxury. Let me explain. I was able to cook my dinner in the oven while many people had to go without dinner, my amazing coworker forced me to go to the gym and let me vent about my bad day, and I was able to order another set of tote bags for my Warrior Bags project using the internet (which I’m SO excited about and can’t wait to share the new bags. Shameless plug- I’m still accepting donations, click here to help!). Doing this every night forces me to think about the little things that we take for granted the most. Do you ever stop and think how lucky we are that we have electricity? Or that you have a pair of shoes to wear? Or that you know how to read? These are things that we don’t even give a second thought to, but the more grateful we are for the little things, the more appreciative we are and the less time we spend complaining. Overall, I believe doing this will make you a happier person! I challenge you to try doing this for two weeks. Every day, write down three things that you’re grateful for and never write the same thing twice. I write my three things on a dry erase board on my refrigerator so I see them all the time. It’s pretty eye opening and surprisingly fulfilling.
Let’s start right now. What are three things that you’re grateful for today? Leave a comment below, I’d love to read through them!