It sounds like a cliché to say ‘having cancer changed my life’ but spoiler alert: it did. I have talked about my health on the blog before but it’s still something I find tricky to talk about, it’s something that still carries a lot of anxiety for me, and something that honestly I’d rather not focus on. I’ve mentioned that I still struggle day to day with the implications of ongoing chronic illness, but I haven’t really talked in detail about how my life has changed, and surprisingly, it’s not all negative!
I’m a much more positive person.
Which is kinda funny when you think about it. Perhaps a side effect of a ‘really bad thing’ happening, perhaps a result of the hospital mandated therapy sessions, perhaps partly me getting older, maybe just because a ‘really bad thing’ happened and I’m still here, but the whole way I look at life is different. Before being ill and my diagnosis, I was really caught up in the day to day minutiae, stressing about things that don’t deserve the energy, existing in a state of constant anxiety. These days, I have a much better grasp on my anxiety, and my general outlook is more positive. Every day I wake up and don’t have cancer, well that’s a good day if you ask me.
My priorities in life are different.
I’m not sure I could really tell you what my priorities were before mind, the last year or so before I was in and out of hospital were a haze of finishing uni, being with family while my grandad was sick, looking after my dad when he had his accident, I was certainly a little lost. But I can tell you I prioritised very different things. I was stuck in a pattern of spending too much money, spending too much time on Instagram, and putting too much stock in the insignificant. For me, being sick bought a lot of clarity to what’s important in my life, what makes me happy and what my goals are. Now I prioritise a slower pace, an appreciation of the small things, time spent with family. I know I need certain things, like time spent in nature, time spent reading, daily meditation practice, to feel like me, and I’m prioritising that in my schedule before work, chores, even socialising.
I’m a little more selfish.
My fatal flaw in life has always been putting the happiness of others, before my own, sometimes at the expense of my own. I was running myself ragged trying to see friends frequently, be there for them all the time, do what they wanted, to the point that I often wasn’t leaving time for what I needed and what makes me happy. Now, I have a list of things I need to do for me to feel happy, at ease, to keep my anxiety at bay, and that comes first. Of course, my friends are still incredibly important to me, and I will always be there for them when they need me, but I’ve had some really positive open conversations about boundaries, and how I need to make sure I’m making time for what matters to me too.
I feel like I can be a better friend.
Before being sick, I’d had a fairly charmed existence, nothing bad had really ever happened to me. An unexpected side effect of being sick, means it gives you a real sense of balance, and what’s important. I think now when my friends need support and advice, I’m in a healthier mental state, and better equipped to give constructive, positive advice.
I don’t sweat the small stuff.
I used to be one of these people with serious road rage, who would let one stressful encounter ruin their day, one problem at work ruin my night’s sleep. Sometimes a ‘really bad thing’ happening offers a perspective shift that means the day to day inconveniences stop being all consuming. My happiness is more important to me, and I’m not sacrificing it for something small and insignificant.
I’m looking after myself better.
Any health problems can be a bit of a wake up call, but this one really shook me. After four years living in London, I’d not been taking care of any aspect of my health. I was run ragged on overcrowded schedules, pollution and fast food, looking after my health was my lowest priority. Now, I’m all about nourishing my body with whole food cooked at home, supporting my health with the supplements it needs, leaving room in my schedule to allow my mind a break, and making time for things that positively impact my mental health.
Whilst obviously I’ve struggled with my health, and am still certainly not cured, I honestly think being ill in the end has had a really positive impact on how I live my life. Mentally, I’ve never felt stronger, and I feel like it gave me the clarity to find out what’s important to me, and realise my true goals. Sometimes in life you need a push to reassess where you’re at, and this was a defining moment for me.