There came a point in my cancer journey where I decided it was time to take care of me. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, dealing with infections and long-term antibiotics, side effects from medications as well as seven surgeries, I needed someone to talk to who really understood what I had been through and the aftermath.
I have had cancer twice, but after my second cancer, my outlook on life, relationships, etc., changed tremendously, but in a good way. Unfortunately, I often felt alone in my healing — very misunderstood by most. Those who truly understood me were fellow cancer survivors and medical staff, whom I am forever grateful to know and have in my corner.
I reached out to Froedtert Hospital and was fortunate enough to see psycho-oncologists on staff. At probably my third session, I was told what I was experiencing was post-traumatic growth, a term I was unfamiliar with. Once it was explained to me, a light bulb went on and I felt such a sense of relief! A sense of self. A sense of peace.
When people experience tragedy, a major life crisis or a highly stressful event, they may experience positive change from tragedy. Transformation if you will. It could be a change in their sense of self, relationships, their life in general, etc. It is positive personal change … it is post-traumatic growth! I left my therapist's office that day and felt like a new person. Like I finally understood why I felt like such a different person — in a very good way. And more importantly, why it was OK.
I made a choice to be more fully alive than ever before! To live a life that makes me happy inside. To make plans to enjoy this life more and more each and every day. To simplify so I don't feel anchored. To move to a smaller town, which is a work in process! To create healthy boundaries as needed. To stop saying I would like to do this or go here someday and instead just do it or start making plans! To be more spontaneous. And … to spoil myself a little bit, which is something that is still very hard for me to do.
I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I don't know if I will live to be 50, 60, 70 or beyond. What I do know is I made a choice to be more fully alive, and it is the best choice I have ever made in my entire life. I will waste no time. I am happier than I have ever been, enjoying this journey called life, and cannot wait to experience what tomorrow brings!
Post-traumatic growth is another "gift" from cancer. Understanding it is enlightening. Living it is absolutely amazing. I would never wish cancer on anyone, not even my worst enemy. However, I do wish people could experience and understand the growth and "gifts" that come from such a diagnosis. Cancer was a blessing!
Share Your Thoughts
Did you experience post-traumatic growth during or after treatment? Did it change how you live your life? Share your thoughts below.