Raise your hand if you’ve ever had your attitude referred to in an unfavorable light. I would be lying if I told you that I was an angel growing up. I didn’t get into trouble or do bad things, but I remember the words, “She’s got a mouth on her, huh?” or “Too smart for her own good, that one…” coming from one or both of my grandmothers a time or two.
I was smart-mouthed with an adult sense of humor. I had a temper and wasn’t afraid to use my words to diffuse a situation – but I also may have been the one to cause said situation. Over the years, I obviously grew up, learned how to read a room and developed a bit more tact, but let’s just say, even as an adult, my attitude was never classified as an asset.
And then I got cancer.
As I learned the official diagnosis from my surgeon, I had stage 2a triple negative, metaplastic breast cancer – one that accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses. I was 32, had no family history, no genetic mutations and no explanation as to why I was one of the chosen ones. I was completely caught off guard. I was building my career. I hadn’t met my person yet, and I didn’t have any kids. I had my whole life ahead of me and I was devastated with the fear of the unknown.
Without even making a conscious effort, my attitude took over. I blinked the tears from my eyes in the surgeon’s office and told her, “Ok. I don’t have time for this shit. What’s the plan?” She walked me through the treatment plan: bilateral mastectomy followed by chemotherapy, and ultimately reconstruction.
I was still in shock, but that shock had turned to determination. I have always strived for control in and of my life – that attitude was not about to change. I took control of every possible thing I could; and for those I couldn’t, I simply made the conscious decision to leave it to the professionals. The same way I put my finances in my Accountant’s hands every April, I put my boobs in my surgeon’s hands and trusted her to do what she does best.
As my treatments progressed, I tried with all my might to keep a positive attitude and find the silver linings in my daily life. I kept as much of my life intact as possible, working on the days between chemo treatments and slowly adding more risky elements of my life back into my schedule. For example, I started traveling again shortly after starting my bi-weekly Taxol regimen.
My attitude was one that said, “[Screw] you, cancer! This is my body and my life. You can leave.” It took my breasts; it took my hair; it took three years of my life; it took a lot of my body-image. It took so much of ‘me’ – it wasn’t going to take my life too.
Obviously this method doesn’t work for everyone – and I absolutely recommend that you speak with your doctors before doing anything risky – but it’s also very important to live your life. Be smart, but don’t lose yourself to this disease.
When was the last time you picked a fight or an argument you didn’t think you could win? Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “Victorious warriors win first, and then go to war. Defeated warriors go to war first, and then seek to win.” In a nutshell, this means that you have to convince yourself that you’ll win first – before you even attempt to fight. From there, you go into battle with the resolve that the outcome is all but written in stone. You can’t go into your fight with cancer hoping to come out victorious. You need to decide to kick cancer’s ass and then go do it.
There will be really tough days. There will be days where aside from the obvious physical indicators, you feel fine. Let yourself feel everything. Let yourself experience everything as it comes. Remember, it’s the rainy days that make the sunny ones feel that much better! Have an honest conversation with yourself – probably in the shower – and make a deal with your brain that you’re going to face this head on and fight to feel good.
Once you decide to use your attitude as an asset, and strive to do just 1% better than you think you can, you’ll be surprised how strong you really are!
If you’d like to read more about my story you can purchase WARRIOR.