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Dear Cancer, You Became My Silver Lining

by Megan StierWarrior, Breast CancerJune 18, 2024View more posts from Megan Stier

Dear Cancer,

May 19, 2015, the day I discovered you were living within me. At just 26 years old, I was gearing up for a rollercoaster ride that, little did I know, I would never get off. I thought there would be an end to you, a day where my life would go back to what it was, and I could act as if you had never happened. You know, just sweep you under the rug and forget about you. But that day has never come. Sure, there came a day when you weren’t physically here in my body anymore, but somehow, even to this day, you’re still here. Lingering in my daily thoughts and decisions.

You’ve taken a lot from me. My body, you mutilated it. You took my breasts, creating thick scars that flow like rivers across my chest. The final stop on your journey was in my lymph nodes, where you had demolished many. The tightness, puffiness, heaviness, and cording that I’ve experienced is because of you. I guess one might say you had the decency of leaving me one nipple, but to be honest, I would rather you had just taken them both. My self-confidence, you demolished it. You’ve increased my fear and anxiety around the thought of you. Wondering if you will ever decide to come back into my life. And if you do, when? And if you do, at what rate? It’s as if I’m stuck in limbo with you, constantly battling the “whatif ’s” forever and always. But, do you want to know the best part of this story? It’s what you didn’t take from me, and that is my life. I can now see, through all the mutilation, fear, anxiety, and “what-if ’s” that there is a silver lining in my story, and I’m here to share it.

You are supposed to be this terrible thing that feeds off sadness and despair, turns lives upside down, and tears relationships apart. But that wasn’t my experience. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I feel better things have come into my life because of you. You led me to my survivor-sisters; women who have also been impacted by you. It’s as if you methodically placed each one of them in my life, just at the right time, when we needed each other the most. Having this group of young women who have gone through what I have allows us to share memories, feelings, struggles, and gain support from someone who can relate. These types of relationships cannot be matched. I’m so grateful I’ve created these bonds that run so deep, and ones that will never be broken.

You pushed me really hard when I was at my lowest point. You had me fooled, thinking my lowest point was going to be when I was physically fighting you, but no. That was actually the easy part. My lowest point was when you were physically gone and I was rapidly learning how to battle you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Those days, months, and years after you, now that was hell. But you showed me what it truly meant to find hope in really dark times. You’ve shown me how strong I am, what I’m capable of, and that there’s much more to life. As cliché as it sounds, life’s too short. Your presence taught me the importance of living a more fulfilled life.

You’re the reason I’m continually focusing on self-discovery. You’ve made me question who I am as a person, what my purpose is, and why I’m even here. You’ve made me question my interests and hobbies. As much as I desired to go back to my life before you, I quickly realized that I didn’t really have much of a life before you. It is as if I was just floating by. I like to call it my “ghost of cancer’s past” era. I was lost, and yet you challenged me to try new things and to ultimately find myself. And so, that’s what I did. I set out on a mission to explore new things, take risks, and find what makes me happy.

You’re the reason I started journaling, practicing meditation and yoga, exploring the arts, getting outdoors, and hiking. I’ve found this profound love for the outdoors. There’s just something about being out in nature. Hearing the leaves dance in the trees as the wind blows and the crunch of the forest beneath my hiking boots, smelling the variations of wildflowers and pine trees, listening to the birds sing to one another, watching the squirrels hunt for acorns, and then that feeling. That feeling when you get to the summit, you’re breathless and you immediately take a moment to be still. It’s these moments that I seem to be chasing. The outdoors are alive in such a way I’ll never be able to fathom. It’s truly magical and where I feel most connected to myself. You’re the reason I’ve chosen to become a minimalist and live in a campervan full-time. For two years now, I’ve been traveling and exploring North America with no plans of stopping anytime soon. You’re the reason I’m now that “fuck yeah!” friend. You know, the friend that is down for anything, because life’s too short to say no to an adventure. You’re the reason I see all the little joys in my life, and never take them for granted. You’re the reason I’m taking risks, learning from my mistakes, and working to be the best version of myself. When I envision my younger self, you’re the reason I can see how proud she is of what we’ve endured, of where we are, and of who we’re becoming. And the best part, I know we’re going to make her extra proud with this next chapter.

You’ve not only challenged me to reflect on my own story, but more importantly, you’ve made me curious about the stories of others. And now I am focused on hearing those stories. Listening, guiding, and empowering women to live that fulfilled life they’ve been searching for after cancer. One that I’m so grateful to have found for myself. You’re the reason I became an Integrative Wellness Life Coach; to help women impacted by breast cancer transition out of treatments and back into the world. As I like to call it, guiding them in finding their new normal. Because of you, I understand how critical this step is in the healing journey. One that is often overlooked but should never be dismissed.

I often wonder if it weren’t for you, would I be where I am now? When I ask myself this, my gut response is always, no. I most likely would not have taken these risks and chances that I’ve taken since you’ve come into my life. I hate that I’m giving you so much credit for how beautiful my life is turning out to be, but I guess that is the power in finding the silver lining.

In summary . . .

You ripped through like a tornado.

You were here, and it was chaotic, then you were gone, and there was silence.

You left me stranded, with all the pieces.

Growing so desperate to put them back together. Oh, so perfectly.

But when the pieces didn’t fit, my mind grew louder and louder.

I became angry and even a doubter.

It was then, after hitting the bottom, you flew through my mind encouraging me that everything would be fine.

That I can live this life of mine, create new pieces, and try to enjoy my time.

This article was featured in the June 2024 Dear Cancer issue of Elephants and Tea Magazine! Click here to read our magazine issues.

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