My entire life, I’ve felt much pride and comfort in being a person who was highly organized, a planner, someone who truly enjoys predictability. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everything that encompassed my normal way of living was disrupted. And there was no way to fix it. This was not a good feeling—frankly, it sucked.
I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young children. My first thoughts after my breast cancer diagnosis were how this was going to affect them. Would they even still have a mother in a year? These are terribly hard things to think about when you never thought you’d be faced with uncertainty. A week after my diagnosis, I decided I was going to embrace thankfulness each and every day and make a part of each day ridiculously amazing. Here are the three ways I made this happen:
1. Noticing Life’s Little Moments
Now, one would ask how someone could find anything amazing in the midst of breast cancer treatment. Especially with GI issues, bone pain, neuropathy, and the worst fatigue you’ve ever felt. I did this by simply being present in the moment when I could. And by putting an effort toward noticing. Some days I wasn’t able to leave my bed much, but I still found opportunities.
Many nights during my toughest chemo time, I’d go to bed early and listen to my husband put our kids to bed. I was sad I couldn’t do it, but I found so much happiness in hearing him read bedtime stories and tell our kids how much he loved them.
It can be hard, but it’s worth it to use the little energy you have to notice life’s little moments.
2. Thanking People
One thing that has helped me throughout my diagnosis is letting people know how thankful I am for them. On my worst days–you know the days where walking down the stairs to get something to drink was an exhausting event sorta day–I’d grab a stack of thank you notes and start writing. I felt like I was doing something while not exerting much energy.
I truly think this was more beneficial to me than the person actually receiving the notes. It gave me time to actively seek out thankful acts of kindness and then reflect on them. It also gave me a sense of accomplishment for finishing a task for the day. I enjoy writing thank-you cards, but this can be done through texts, Facebook posts, in person, on the phone, or even through tweets. Thanking others gives you a second moment to experience the good in the world. Because you feel it once when it happens and a second time while reflecting on it.
One of my favorite thankful memories happened about four months into my diagnosis. My kindergartner’s class was asked what their mothers did for a job. The teacher heard all sorts of answers, from one kiddo saying their mom was a doctor to one who had a mom who worked with animals. My 5-year-old son said one of the most insightful things I’ve heard throughout my diagnosis. He told his class, “Mom has cancer and she doesn’t have hair and her job is to go to the clinic and get better. She has a really important job!”
Right then and there, I knew my kids would be OK. My son had learned so much in the past four months, and I couldn’t have been prouder. I found my thankfulness in his teacher who made my day in one email she didn’t have to send me.
3. Embracing the Moments We’re Given: Good and Bad
I don’t want you to think I find every moment ridiculously amazing. Being a mom is tough. Being a mom with breast cancer doesn’t make things easier by any means. But I live for the real moments during the day–moments of pure chaos that make motherhood what it is. I didn’t always live for these moments pre-cancer diagnosis.
You know those lovely times when your 5-year-old is taking eight years to put on his shoes before the bus comes. Those moments when your 7-year-old decides his pants are no longer comfortable one minute before you are supposed to leave the house. Or when your 2-year-old decides she needs a yellow cup and, well, you don’t own any yellow cups. The struggle is real, moms.
I love that once I get to the bus stop I am able to laugh with other moms about the morning mom struggles. I love that my 7-year-old has a discussion with me later about why his pants bother him. And I love that I’m given the opportunity to help my daughter learn colors, learn how to regulate her emotions, and comfort her after a tantrum.
It means I’m here and able to experience these moments.
I may not always appreciate each moment of motherhood, but I appreciate being able to experience the madness. If you are able to reflect on thankfulness throughout the day, it can really improve your mental health. And your entire outlook on life. Choosing gratitude puts you in charge of how you are feeling, not the cancer.
This mommy did complete her really important job of conquering cancer. The job really is never done as each day and month there are cancer scares and appointments to be had. There are many unknowns–how surgeries will go, if the cancer is gone, if it will come back someplace else, and if my body will rebound from treatment after all the trauma it’s experienced.
But one thing I know for sure is that I’m happy for the days I have.
And I’m beyond thankful for a new outlook on life. Find time to reflect, embrace the moments you are given, and notice the moments all around you. Even in the midst of a breast cancer diagnosis, we have a lot to be thankful for in our crazy lives.
Originally published on Young Survival Coalition