We reached out to people living with cancer to find out what things in life have become more important to them since receiving their diagnosis, and what’s been put on the back burner.
“I want to spend what time I have left doing what I believe is important. Taking care of my health and spending time with family are my highest priorities. I have no qualms about saying no to an activity or task if I need more rest, or if my family wants to do something together. Living up to others’ expectations of me and worrying about failure are no longer important.”
“What is more important to me now is to be kind to myself and others. I work as a healthcare clinician, and getting to advocate for my patients is also more important to me than ever. What is far less important now is how anyone perceives me, or whether I can change someone else's mind about the reality of breast cancer. If people learn something from reading my blog that helps them change their own minds, or if someone finds something that resonates with them and helps them feel less alone, I'm gratified.”
“The most important thing to me now is being here for my 16-year-old daughter and my husband. My daughter was only 3 when I was first diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She needs me now as much as she needed me then, and I want to live to see her graduate college, get married, and have children of her own. Second on the list is helping others with stage 4 breast cancer find hope and encourage them to be their own advocates while spreading the word for the need for more research to save lives. Less important to me? Anything that causes me undue stress. I quit my job when I received this diagnosis because of how stressful and unhappy it made me. There has been research about how stress can depress the immune system, and I believe it is a cancer-driver. I remember waking up from surgery to remove the tumor in my armpit, and the first thing I asked was when I could return to work. My biggest fear was getting laid off and having a gap in my resume. Today I do things, like keeping my blog, authoring books, and fulfilling speaking engagements. They feed my spirit and make me feel like I’m making a difference. We may not have as much money in our bank account, but my family is happier for it.”
“My family, friends, and life's experiences are so very important to me. I want to savor every moment that I can, the big things, and the little things. I made a list to make life more interesting. What is less important is drama and things that just suck your energy uselessly. Having things is less important to me — unless those things contribute to adding to adventures and experiences with my husband and friends.”
“Living my life is more important to me now. I think, before cancer — before I realized my own mortality — I was just going through the motions of life. I was letting life live me. As a busy mom of two young daughters, it's easy to do. But now, I am much more interested in experiences than to do lists. It's actually something that I need to reconcile with my responsibilities and, more importantly, my money situation, because right now — having recently finished treatment — I am in this mindset of "You never know how long you'll be here, let's do it!" and that's really expensive. Ha. Less important: What anyone thinks of me and perfectionism.”
“I used to work a lot. I really loved my job, but as director of marketing for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, I worked long hours. There’s always more to do at a charity than there are people, and because the work supported an outcome I believe in, I was happy to work extra. In fact, before cancer, I often put work first. I don't do that anymore. I’m not working now so I can really focus on my health. That includes lots of hospital visits, eating well, exercising and talking to a psychiatrist. I spend as much time as I can with my husband, family, and friends. I have a small garden, and I love to tend it, to watch it grow. I travel as much as I can because there’s so much beauty in the world, from the great museums to natural wonders, unfamiliar streets, and new people. I started drawing comics to help sort through my feelings about my disease, and those have begun to be published online at The Walrus. My pain is pretty well-managed right now, and my energy is decent, so now is my time to live, and live well. That’s the most important thing.”