What lies behind you and what lies in front of you,
pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Recently, I met a young lady who left me feeling inspired, and I’m so blessed she agreed to let me share her story. I’d like to introduce you to Ann. She has a condition called lymphedema (chronic swelling) to her left arm. She developed this condition after a mastectomy and lymph node excision due to breast cancer.
As soon as I saw her, I knew she was special. Her compression garment was what got my attention. If you look closely, you can see it appears that she has multiple tattoos on her arm, when in reality she’s wearing a garment to help keep the swelling (which can sometimes be significant) controlled. Having to wear a compression sleeve can be difficult, but Ann embraced it. If she had to wear it, she might as well wear it in style!
Her attitude about the compression sleeve was awesome, but it was when I heard the rest of her story that left me feeling incredibly inspired. She shared that her family has a strong history of cancer, and she had lost her grandfather to colon cancer and her younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 49.
Because of her family history, she was adamant about getting screened and taking measures for prevention. Ann was first diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent a colon resection. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a left mastectomy and chemotherapy. Eventually she had a right mastectomy as well.
What a journey she’s been on, but you would never guess she’d been through so much in talking with her. She is an excellent example of the power of not letting your circumstances define you. She shared three things that helped her along the way, and I’d like to pass them along:
1. Appreciate the Blessing of Each and Every Day
She learned to live her life day by day, and to appreciate the gift of that day. Being told you have cancer is a quick reminder of how precious life is. If we really want to live our lives, we should strive to have this mentality each and every day.
Celebrate the gift of each day, and make it count.
2. Don’t Focus on the Negative; Keeping a Positive Attitude Gives You Strength
Dwelling on what you can’t control or change can suck the life and energy right out of you. She chose to focus on what she could control, which was her mindset. She found so much strength in maintaining a positive attitude.
There is a lot to be said about that; I believe wholeheartedly that your attitude and willpower are essential to healing both physically and spiritually. Sometimes that means you have to dig deep, but it’s in there. Re-enforce your mindset with what you spend your time doing. Surround yourself with and fill your time with what brings you joy and laughter.
3. Develop a Strong Support System:
Ann shared how much her husband did for her as she recovered, and without him she would’ve had a much harder time. Life can throw some pretty big curveballs at us, and sometimes they can knock us down. Allow yourself to lean on others to help you back up. Get involved with a congregation, people who’ve dealt with similar circumstances, and let your family and friends care for you.
Sometimes we need all the love and support we can get, and don’t let pride get in the way of what you need. Let others love you. That love is vital in helping us to keep fighting and overcome.
Thank you again to Ann for sharing your story and insights with all of us. It’s amazing how much strength people gain in learning of others who’ve overcome.
Has someone else’s story given you strength to overcome?