Year of first diagnosis: 2011
Kind of cancer: Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
What was your initial reaction to hearing “you have cancer”?
It was sudden and a bit shocking but I knew that something was “not right.” The treatments followed so quickly after my diagnosis that there wasn’t much time to think. The most difficult part was sharing the news with my kids. They were supportive and strong and “on board” immediately. My husband was with me all the way. My family has been crucial in my recovery.
What has been your greatest learning experience?
I’ve regained my faith in humanity through the caring and kindness of all the people who helped me through my illness. So many people were there for me, some that I barely knew, some I had never met before. I’m still so overwhelmed with the kindness and prayers that came my way.
What has proved most helpful for you in staying with the process?
Staying positive is immensely important. Deep breathing, meditation and prayer have helped me through all the treatments and procedures. Visualizing being in peaceful locations such as a particular pine woods with light filtering through the canopy onto the soft needle laden earth. Concentration on my healing was aided by listening to the sounds of birds on my iPod. I often used songs (sometimes silly) with appropriate words, sung over and over in my head to keep me positive.
I would draw, paint or read to keep my mind busy. I kept a bar of lavender soap by my bed that friends had brought me that I would sniff if I was anxious, nauseous or couldn’t sleep. I only knew that it helped. I walked whenever I could, looked out the window a lot and made friends with all of the wonderful and amazing people who cared for me. That was the best part of my experience.
What resources (people, places books) have offered the greatest support?
A dear friend who had dealt with a prolonged illness herself sent me The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh which speaks to meditative breathing practice and experiencing each moment to the fullest. This was helpful in so many ways and truthfully still is. The “Look Good Feel Better” program was also helpful and empowering. It taught me to put my best foot forward.
Has your own spirituality been enhanced or lessened by cancer?
My spirituality has been enhanced by my cancer. It made me realize how fortunate I am. I’m grateful, humbled, stronger and more open. I am much happier after cancer than I was before. It’s amazing.
What would you say to someone who was diagnosed with cancer today? I would tell them to have hope, to enjoy your time, to embrace those that you love, to be patient with yourself and others and to have faith in your Maker.