Perspective, appreciation and an experience of a story harder than your own will enlighten a positive attitude, a stronger will and a determination to fight harder.
My story of breast cancer has never failed to glisten a listener’s eyes as I tell them about my experience which is a nightmare for many. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was young, strong, happy and healthy. As I explain my situation, I never fail to acknowledge my beautiful sister who also battled breast cancer. My sister, Jill is my inspiration every day. She was my role model all my life then became my best friend. Her ability to fight with a big smile on her face, a cheery voice and a heart always more concerned with others than herself are cemented in my mind. I wake up daily knowing the day ahead is a day Jill would appreciate, no matter the challenge. At the end of her battle, she made me promise, to never take for granted the ability to eat, breath, walk and think…four things that are taken for granted until they are gone. She lost her ability to do all of these things but she never lost the ability to love and inspire. Her battle with breast cancer was a nightmare. An absolute nightmare. My experience with breast cancer has been a dream in comparison. My sister was diagnosed when she was 7 months pregnant whereas I had just finished my summer trips. Jill was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and because of Jill I was diagnosed with Stage I. Jill’s doctor and her discussed the risk to her unborn baby as well as her own life. My doctors and I discussed how I was keeping my hair. Jill had a baby that deserved to be her priority and my health was mine. Jill’s health insurance was inconsistent as an occupational therapist in public schools transitioning to private practice and I have the best health insurance working for Amazon. Jill shaved her head not just once but twice and I learned to save my own hair as well as others. Jill recovered from her mastectomy unable to hold her newborn and I had a 15 night sleep over at a best friend’s. Every part of my journey I was able to reflect on the challenges Jill faced and the ease of my journey compared to hers.
Many have asked how I keep a positive attitude amidst a cancer diagnosis and my answer is…perspective. There is always someone who has a more challenging road ahead. For me, it was my sister and her journey was in the past. Jill is now my guardian angel, walking alongside me on this journey. We experienced the nightmare. And now we get to appreciate the dream.