As hard as this journey was/is, I am crazy enough to believe that every drop of chemo not only killed the bad/good cells, but it destroyed the imposter syndrome that held me back. I’m crazy enough to believe that every round of radiation burned off the pressure of perfectionism. I’m also crazy enough to believe that my struggle with anxiety was removed with every surgical excision. We all have crucible moments and turning points at unexpected times that have transformed us into our true selves. I am a better person because of my cancer journey.
“It is strange, but true, that the most important turning points of life often come at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected ways”. - Napoleon Hill
The turning point. 2021. It was a year that I’ll never forget. I was in my thirties and living my best life (so I thought). I had gotten my pre-pregnancy body back and had just been promoted to strategy director. My husband and I had just celebrated our 14-year anniversary. The kids, ages 8 & 5 at the time, were doing well in school.
August 2021. I did a routine self-exam and found a small lump, the size of a pea while on vacation. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, but I scheduled an appointment with my doctor.
September 2021. I had a mammogram. Then I went back for an ultrasound AND a biopsy. Hours passed. Days passed. Weeks passed. Silence.
November 1st, 2021 4 o’clock p.m. The wait was over. I was so optimistic about the results. I asked my doctor, “how long is this appointment going to last because I have a 5 o’clock meeting to attend.” And she told me, you may want to cancel that 5 o’clock call.
“You have invasive ductal carcinoma”, she said. My world stopped and so many thoughts flooded my mind. What stage is it? My family still needs me, I can’t die now...there’s still purpose left in me. I felt betrayed by my own body, because I thought I had checked every box to stay cancer free. But in that moment, I became the 1-in-8 women who would be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
Life is a series of controllable and uncontrollable events. And at that time I felt out of control. I have breast cancer, I whispered.
I was referred to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and weeks later I decided to have a double mastectomy. I was optimistic that I would recover quickly, have reconstructive surgery, and then get back to life as normal. No, that’s not the way the story ends.
The cancer had spread to my lymph node. So the anticipated 2-month journey was extended to 12-months. 16 rounds of chemo, 30 radiation treatments, and 4 surgeries. After hearing the news, I was so devastated and stayed in bed for 21 hours because I had lost all hope.
After I got up, I heard a small voice that said, YOU WILL FIGHT AND WIN.
Life is a series of controllable and uncontrollable events. My faith kicked in and in that moment I took control. I became disciplined and determined to do everything to FIGHT AND WIN.
I have documented and learned over 80 lessons during this journey. One of the lessons was: “Life is about perspective. Your situation changes when your mindset changes.” And that’s what
we did. We shifted and took control. I say, “we” because I was blessed with the best dream team.
My family, friends, and co-workers pushed me when I wanted to give up. We had weekly prayer calls, they exercised with me, juiced with me, and took me to every chemo session. We researched, reached out to our network for a second and third medical opinion, and found natural supplements, holistic alternatives (accupunture) and a meal plan to help me bounce back and lessen the side effects of chemo and radiation. We tried to keep a sense of normalcy by creating routines and traveling during my high-energy days.
From the beginning, I understood that the diagnosis was bigger than me. We took over 500 videos and photos to capture the physical and mental phases of the journey. We also created a YouTube channel and marketing campaigns to raise awareness, drive action and help thousands of people around the world
Through this journey, I gave myself permission to be human and have bad moments, but not bad days.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." I may have temporarily lost my hair, my 34c’s, my energy, and at times hope, but I have gained a greater sense of purpose and clarity about who I am and what I was born to do. During this journey, there was an awakening and I shifted from existing to living. I became resilient.
There’s a term called “the trichotomy of control” and not only is life a series of controllable and uncontrollable events but there’s also a third element. There are moments in time when we have some control, but not complete control.
I don’t have complete control over the environmental toxicity, and other external factors that may lead to cancer, but I have some control over adopting a healthy lifestyle and how I allow this diagnosis to impact my life moving forward. And, I chose to not be a victim, but to become a voice for those women who may have lost the battle, suffered in silence, or for the 1-in-8 who may be diagnosed with breast cancer today, tomorrow, next year...
As hard as this journey was/is, I am crazy enough to believe that every drop of chemo not only killed the bad/good cells, but it destroyed the imposter syndrome that held me back. I’m crazy enough to believe that every round of radiation burned off the pressure of perfectionism. I’m also crazy enough to believe that my struggle with anxiety was removed with every surgical excision.
We all have crucible moments and turning points at unexpected times that have transformed us into our true selves. I am a better person because of my cancer journey. “Something magical happens when you give yourself permission and space to embrace who you are. There is an awakening and unexplainable freedom to live with intentionality and give the world the gift of the real you. Life begins when you find your truth”. - Thandi
Cancer allowed me to slow down, listen to my body, and reconnect with my voice. When confronted with the impermanence of life, all that remained was peace and self acceptance. That sense of clarity and peace continues to empower me to live a wholehearted purposeful life.
Cancer led me to my purpose and passion in life, which is nutrition, mindfulness and holistic health. Without cancer, I wouldn't have as strong of a relationship as I do with my mind and body, and wouldn't have started helping others who are going through cancer treatment or survivorship.