Brain Cancer and Beyond, part 7

Cancer changes your life, often for the better. You learn what’s important, you learn to prioritize, and you learn not to waste your time. You tell people you love them…Gilda Radner used to say ‘If it wasn’t for the downside, cancer would be the best thing and everyone would want it.’ That’s true. If it wasn’t for the downside.

-Joel Siegel

 

Part 7: Becoming Resilient


Click HERE for Part 1
Click HERE for Part 2
Click HERE for Part 3
Click HERE for Part 4
Click HERE for Part 5
Click HERE for Part 6

Even though my body and appearance have changed completely, I will always put my best foot forward. Perseverance is my defining characteristic. Battling the brutalities of cancer at age fourteen made me a more resilient person since I was forced to deal with a multitude of losses: physical, symbolic, emotional and the loss of time. Instead of allowing this disease to win, I choose to rise above it, fight it, and now advocate against it. While still sick, I became immersed in cancer advocacy by joining numerous organizations geared to helping youth with cancer. I overcame challenges by turning my illness into energy for success. Educating and empowering my peers and the public about the young adult cancer world has become extremely important to me.

On the other hand, just because I am cancer-free does not at all mean I am healthy or done with the whole process. Because of cancer, I am currently more than triple my size, despite having undergone a gastric bypass surgery. And because of that I am physically unable to participate in sports (which I used to love), be in public places for more than a short period of time, walk without using a cane, shower without using a seat, go out without bringing a backpack of medicines and medical supplies just-in-case, or park without a handicapped pass. These challenges have taught me to accept a new lifestyle and not dwell on my past. Overcoming challenges requires the power of acceptance, persistence, willpower, resilience and acceptance of what is yet to be. I, for one, know it is very hard to think about thriving when you are barely surviving, but have made that mission possible through retaining positivity and cultivating patience.

In these short few years, in my battle with cancer and beyond, it is valid to say my life changed dramatically as I had to learn to overcome great physical, emotional and developmental challenges that stood in my way. I had to physically learn to walk, talk, smile, eat, rebuild my strength and learn to live in my new body which was much larger than the body that housed my former self. There were so many emotional elements that I faced with my cancer diagnosis such as dealing with new medical expenses, struggling over the loss of friends and with the loss of time and accepting life as it now was. I had to overcome shock, fear, uncertainty, grief, depression, anger and ultimately guilt, if I was going to survive. I had to overcome, and still am, much sadness and symbolic and physical grief in accepting my new self and letting go of my former self. Developmental challenges hit the plate very hard when I attended college and attempted to memorize flash cards only to realize I had lost the ability to memorize and learn the way I used to learn. I was formerly a quick-thinking learner and I now needed a note taker, hearing aids and assistance on tests. But I have to say, I have not only overcome life’s greatest challenges, learned life’s greatest lessons; but I have also learned to be more content with the simple pleasures that life has to offer me right here, right now, and have learned to appreciate the time we have.

I, personally, will never know the reason why I got brain cancer in the first place, but what I know for sure is that my diagnosis has allowed me to more easily overcome smaller challenges that are set in my path today since I know, in my heart of hearts, that, it could be worse. I am resilient and so are you.

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Jamie Buchanan I am a passionate optimist committed to helping others improve themselves. I have been tested to my core and have overcome against all the odds. I will be a beacon, an activist, and an advocate for those who feel they cannot do it for themselves.

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