Six years ago today, on February 1, 2011 at 4pm, I got the call confirming my worst fear.
“I’m so sorry, Kim, it is cancer.”
It’s difficult to explain what it feels like to hear that sentence directed at you, but a close estimate would be like having all the blood drained from your body, then getting kicked straight in the stomach.
I had always used the idea of getting cancer as being the worst possible thing that could happen to me. Didn’t get that job? Could be worse, could have cancer. Car broke down? Could be worse, could have cancer.
And I had it. I had cancer.
After numbly hanging up the phone with my doctor, I silently closed my office door. I had recently been promoted to a senior executive position that I had worked hard to get. Having just had my fourth son I left maternity leave early to take on my new role.
I headed back to my desk and picked up to the phone to call my husband. When he answered the phone, I heard an unfamiliar voice speak the words to him, “Darren, the test results came back…and it is cancer.”
We were both horrified. What was the next step? Could this be a mistake? Was my husband going to be a widow with four small boys? A million thoughts were running through our minds.
I left the office very quietly and drove home. No music played. I was numb.
When I arrived home my husband stood at the door with open arms. We embraced, holding each other, crying into each other’s arms. I don’t know how long we stood there and wept. We were the only ones who knew, our children had yet to find out, but we just held each other and cried.
Our cancer journey had begun.
Reflecting on the last 6 years I realize now how much cancer actually gave me. The lessons and blessings it brought to me and my family never would have happened if cancer hadn’t grabbed me by the shoulders, shaken me, and said “Kim, wake up! It’s time to change the way you’re living!”
I have learned to love deeper, learned not to be attached to material items, and most important be grateful for everything. Not to rate my success on how I live, what I drive, or what I wear. I've learned that true happiness comes from within and the more you truly give to people, with no expectations, the more abundance starts to grow. This is a life of abundance in love, friendship, family, happiness, and most importantly contentment within.
Prior to having cancer, my drive was ferocious; being content was impossible. As soon as I achieved something, it was onto the next. Then I would quickly get bored, and then it was onto the next thing.
I realize now that the reason I was on a never-ending path to perfection was because I wasn't happy with who I was within. I used external rewards, such as promotions and pay raises, to distract me from dealing with the core of who I was. It was easier to have control over these external things, then to hold a mirror up to myself and truly get to know my mind, heart and soul.
Cancer taught me that I couldn’t control everything and this was one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn.
With each chemo treatment or test result, I would research, read the latest medical journals, examine and interpret everything little thing, and ask my doctor a zillion questions. One day after asking him yet another question about an article I had recently read, he gently said to me, "Kim you can't control this, we are doing the best we can to fight this disease, but at the end of the day, what is meant to be will happen."
Immediately I thought to myself, “Are you fucking kidding me?! What is meant to be will happen? What the hell does that even mean?“
Not having control was completely foreign to me. This was one of the best lessons, and one of the hardest ones for me. The effort and energy I put into trying to control so many things was lost, because yes, what is meant to be will happen.
I now apply that very valuable energy and effort into guiding and helping others make educated decisions, and accept what is, and be at peace with it. The sooner we accept what is, and let go of the fear attached to it, the more at peace we are.
The more we are able to live in the present and appreciate life at a deeper level. Hanging on to negative, stressful emotions, only hurts us. Being content with what is allows us to grow, love stronger and appreciate deeper. It also feels a heck of a lot better!
Over the last 5 years I’ve worked on my mind, body and soul, making all the necessary (and sometimes difficult) changes to live a purer and richer life with appreciation and happiness every single day.
Unfortunately along the way, this also meant removing toxic relationships.
As I was changing my lifestyle, I kept hearing the same pessimistic words again and again from people who had known me previous to getting cancer, “You’ve really changed…”
Of course I’ve changed! I’ve had to face my biggest fear, while fighting for my life! Of course this challenge is going to change me! And I’ve changed for the better! Why do you say this like it’s a bad thing?
Removing toxic relationships isn’t easy but it’s essential to surround yourself with people who stand by you through hard times and good. After fighting cancer, my notion of “what is good” shifted from pay raises and promotions to living a purer lifestyle, and not everyone saw this change in values as a great thing. Luckily, for me, the people in my life who truly loved my core essence were interested and enthusiastic for my new journey. And I thank them for this.
Today I’m thrilled to say that I’m full of life, eating and living healthier than I ever have, helping so many more people than I ever imagined, and full of supportive, encouraging, and uplifting friendships.
By far, fighting cancer was one of the scariest and hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but I think it took even harder work to make the necessary changes to unearth my pure life.
And from these lessons, I hope that I can help others figure out how to live a rewarding and healthy life without having to go through the same life-altering challenges I had to.
So 6 years later, here is what I have to say:
Thank you cancer for how you have enriched my life, changed who I am, for every single person you have brought into my life, and most of all, for forcing me to face my worst fear.