5 Lessons I Learned From 3 Years in Cancer Treatment
No doctor can confirm it, but in my heart, I know that I was diagnosed with cancer due to my environment and my work-is-everything mentality. Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh, but reflection is powerful. My experience has given me a lifetime learning opportunity and to this date, I am grateful.
To give you some context, I’ve always been a hard worker, but for the past 12 years, living in NYC has been a hustle, especially as I tried to prove to myself and others my worth as an entrepreneur despite having a great corporate career. Now, three years into breast cancer treatment due to a recurrence and it spreading to my lungs, wellness is non-negotiable for me.
I look at health in three categories: We are either in prevention, treatment or survival. A step forward in your wellness practice can have profound changes, and developing your set of non-negotiables is a way to help make those changes. Plus, you never know who can inspire along the way. Here are some of my takeaways and non-negotiables that have come from my wellness journey.
1. Wellness is Holistic.
Cancer taught me that wellness is holistic. I decided to undergo chemotherapy, but I soon realized it couldn’t be the only form of treatment.
I started including food, acupuncture, breathwork, playing outside, mindfulness, and physical activity, and I found a community of like-minded people to help support me while I also give back to others. Embracing various types of healing modalities from Western and non-Western cultures with guidance from healers and various practitioners has helped me thrive as well.
2. Food is the Real Healer.
I can’t say enough about food. Real food has changed my life. I wasn’t a bad eater, but my relationship with food wasn’t a love affair. Now, I consciously use food daily to heal, nourish and touch my soul. A bit poetic right? Honestly, I feel my best when I incorporate organic and/or local fruits, vegetables and herbs from the farmers’ market. Supporting small businesses that can tell me about their supply chain and ingredients is another way I understand what I put in my body.
3. Focusing On What You Put In, On and Around Your Body is Key.
When I was diagnosed, I started to become aware of my surroundings and that’s when I began to reconsider everything—and I encourage others to do the same. Simply put, reconsider everything that you put in, on and around your body. This includes food, personal care items, your environment and the company you keep.
I feel that we live in a society where certain things aren’t questioned because they’re the status quo, or we’ve grown up a certain way, with traditions that don’t get vetted. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean these are the best ways of doing things, so I encourage myself and others to be vigilant of every aspect of their health and constantly check-in with yourself.
4. Mindfulness Can Transform You.
Cancer is humbling and it forces you to think. A lot. Practicing mindfulness through meditation and journaling has helped me by calming my mind and welcoming joy. I will admit to falling off of this practice often, but knowing that it’s a resource in my toolkit allows me to come back at anytime.
My definition of mindfulness has evolved too. For me, it’s about being aware of myself, others around me and the environment. When you can be a part of the change, large or small, you are in fact serving a greater good.
5. A Condition Doesn’t Define You: It’s A Part of Your Story.
Three years into cancer treatment, two surgeries and a lot of modalities, I am now living with a silent condition. I don’t look like someone with cancer. My hair has grown back. I’m functional from the outside. My Instagram reveals that I am probably living a pretty awesome life (which I am).
I’m now comfortable talking about cancer and have learned that this condition doesn’t define me. It’s a part of my story and whatever you are going through, know that your identity is not your illness and you have the opportunity to create your narrative in a way that’s authentic to you.
Interested in learning more from Melissa? Join us at WELL Summit 2019 in Brooklyn on October 18 and 19, where she’ll be leading a panel of entrepreneurs making waves in wellness.
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