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Do The Thing, Even If You’re Not Exceptional

by Rachel MihalkoSurvivor, Hodgkin's LymphomaMay 28, 2020View more posts from Rachel Mihalko

Do the thing.

As I sit in my backyard listening to the calming music of artists like dodie and mxmtoon, I don’t know what to write. This is supposed to be my spot, my place where inspiration strikes and my writing flows. It did just this morning, but now, around 3pm, my mind is blank. I often sit down to write and want to put pen to paper in the most earth-shattering, impactful way. Especially when it comes to life after cancer. I feel like I can’t articulate my writing well enough. I feel like I can’t just do the thing.

Survivorship ended up being nothing like I expected. It’s been almost two years ago to the day that I was first diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 19 years old. I was finishing up my freshman year of college, and cancer was waiting for me on the other side of finals. Since then, I have gained perspective. I used to think that things would never get better. I used to think that cancer would always be lurking behind the scenes and that I would never again live a day feeling like a typical young adult.

While it sometimes still feels this way, I also have settled into a new version of normalcy. It didn’t just happen all at once; it was a process of getting out of bed day after day, whether I wanted to or not and whether there was a spring in my step and hope in my eyes or I was lagging behind and only seeing the darkness in the world.

There were so many days that were more like the latter; I didn’t know how to keep living after treatment or how to connect with people anymore. All I knew was that my world was turned upside down, and I didn’t know how to find my footing again. Eventually, the hard days got less hard. I can’t bring myself to say easier, because even now, those days are not easy.

Now that the school semester is over, I’ve found myself with excess time and few ideas of what to do with myself. I’ve been pouring myself into my writing, which I haven’t had a chance to devote myself wholeheartedly to in a long while. It has been the one thing I have been able to cling to in all of the craziness that is cancer and survivorship. It helps me wrap my head around what I’m feeling and bring myself to (almost) a point of acceptance.

There’s a myth in today’s world that in order to do something, you have to be exceptional at it. Whether you’re an artist or a poet, you can’t possibly have a hobby without being the best of the best. That is so not true. Hobbies got me through treatment and still get me through the ups and downs of life.

I live to be creative, and I have had to learn that my art journal spreads don’t have to look perfect and my poems don’t have to be breath-taking. While that would be great, this just isn’t the reality for every time I engage in either of these hobbies. I don’t do them to be perfect; I do them out of inspiration and creativity, and that should be enough.

It’s okay if inspiration doesn’t hit right away. Don’t let that become an excuse to not do the thing you want to do. Whether it’s photography, painting, writing or something entirely different, do it for you. And do it for the healing.

I wrote this at a time that I was completely uninspired, but I just went for it. I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and did the thing. You too can do the thing. Whatever it is that you want to pursue, go for it. Because, no matter how cliché it is, we know that our time is limited. We didn’t fight this hard to not engage in our passions.

So do the thing.


All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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