This week will mark 5 years since being diagnosed with nodular melanoma. I've approached cancer as more of a speed bump than a stop sign in living my life.
I was talking with some folks about my cancer diagnosis and how I've dealt with it over the years. The question came up about where do I see myself in 5 years. I chuckled because it reminded me of an interview question... My first gut reaction - alive. That is the #1 priority!
Those that know me, know I'm stubborn and highly independent. I'd like to think that is part of the reason why I've done well with fighting this. In almost 5 years there has been a very little period of time when I ever felt like and considered myself a cancer patient. And honestly, I didn't like it one bit!
I continue to move forward. It would have been easy for me to pack up and go home when I was first diagnosed. I know my family would have appreciated that. But in my mind that was letting cancer define who I am and win.
So what's changed? I get asked that question a lot also. We all think we are invincible! Nothing is going to slow us down or stop us! I can't say that this has changed me a lot (I'll leave that up to my family and friends to comment on haha!). But I will say that there are some thing's that I view and approach differently.
1. CAREER WANTS AND NEEDS: I was very ambitious with my career. Partially because I enjoyed what I did and partially because I wanted to be successful. When you get a slap in the face reminder that life is short, you stop and reevaluate that. Do I need the long hours, stress, etc? Is a large paycheck worth it? Is a big title worth it? The answer is yes and no. I think you just have to find the right balance and environment. And remember that without good health, none of these matter.
2. ENJOY THE MOMENTS: there were a number of times in the past I could remember skipping out on things with family and friends to do work. I try and remember my priorities! Work will always be there.
3. HEALTHY LIVING: I am totally guilty of putting off annual physicals, taking the easy meal vs the healthy meal, skipping the gym for about any excuse I could think of. I'm still not great, but getting better! Ok, ok, I still skip my annual physical, but let's be honest - I was getting blood work every 3 weeks and scans every 3 months. That's WAY more through than any other physical I've had!
4. TRUST YOR GUT: we know our bodies best. Go with what feels right! Fight for what you deserve!
5. BE HONEST: no sense in holding back in what you think or feel. Share that with others.
6. BE HOPEFUL AND OPTIMISTIC: I've never been much of a Debbie downer. Ok cancer, it sucks! There is no sugar coating it. I share my story and experiences because I want people to be hopeful! (And maybe proactive in taking care of yourself!). Melanoma is highly treatable if caught early! There has been so much change in the last 5 years of treatment of melanoma! And more things coming every day!
So those are a few things I've learned along this journey. Disclaimer, remember I'm an engineer not a writer haha!!
Here's a little collage I did showing 5 years of treatments and adventures.