Thank you for reminding me of what matters in life. I used to wonder why you chose me; why at 33 years old you found me. Now, I get it.
2022 was the hardest year of my life. I was feeling burnt out at work and was dreaming about striking out on my own. Then, the company I had helped get off the ground and dedicated four years of my life to made a change that forced me out on my own. I worked 24/7 to get my new company off the ground to follow my dreams.
One week prior to my business’s grand opening, my best friend of twelve years completely cut off contact with me. She was my partner in business; she was helping to shape the company, doing marketing, and I thought we were working together towards a shared dream. Our kids played together, she had recently moved closer to where I live, and a few months prior we had even taken our families to Disneyland together. Her exit from my life blindsided and devastated me.
In the months prior to my diagnosis, I was working constantly, drinking several energy drinks a day, rarely sleeping, rarely seeing my two young daughters, and fighting constantly with my husband. Not our usual kind of fights where we would disagree then reconcile and move on, but the “maybe we should get divorced” kind of fights for the first time in our eleven years of marriage. My work was the most important thing in the world to me, and I was willing to sacrifice anything for it to succeed.
This was not who I wanted to be.
Then in September, I felt a lump in my breast; in October I received my diagnosis: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, triple negative, stage 2. I was scheduled to start treatment on December 9.
Suddenly, my life came to a screeching halt.
In the months that followed I didn’t have the energy to work, I couldn’t stomach caffeine, slept a lot, and suddenly the things my husband and I fought about didn’t matter anymore.
Cancer reminded me—forced me even—to SLOW DOWN.
In the past five months, my little family has gone on two vacations together. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t work at all.
I have dropped off and picked up my daughter from school probably more in the past few months than in her entire short life.
I have mastered the art of sourdough.
I have cooked dinner for my family most nights.
I have put my daughters to bed almost every single night.
You taught me that you can still find happiness in difficult times. In the past, I believed that if something awful like a cancer diagnosis happened to me, I wouldn’t be able to laugh or find joy for a long time. I believed my life would be consumed in darkness for as long as it took to recover.
But I was wrong.
I came to realize that I found joy in my weekly doctor’s appointments with my husband. My cancer hospital was a two-hour drive round-trip, and I had to see my oncology team every week because of the trial drugs I was on. Each Friday we would get in the car and drive to my appointments; sometimes we had meaningful conversations about life or our future, sometimes we drove in silence just enjoying each other’s company.
You taught me that even when things are dark, there is always light.
My list could keep going on of all of the things I have been able to do since my cancer diagnosis. Cancer reminded me of what I truly care about, what I want to spend my time on.
As my treatment hopefully comes to a close in the next few months, the things that are most important to me are figuring out how to grow vegetable and flower gardens, and spending as much time as possible outdoors with my husband and daughters this summer.
Yes, I will likely go back to work, but I know now that my work is just my work. Yes, I enjoy it, but it is not what I value most in this life.
So cancer: I hear you. Message received. I’m sorry I had to lose all my hair, half my sanity, and scare all of my friends and family to hear the message, but I hear you. I know what is important in my life now.