On August 26th, I lost a friend named Camille to Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. We were both Stage 3 when originally diagnosed just a few years apart. Our treatments were virtually the same. I have been in remission for six years. She had a recurrence after just over two years and lived another eight. Camille was a friend, a contributor to these articles, and her death has been hard on me—always the endless survivor-guilt wondering: Why her and not me?
A cancer diagnosis feels like the Boogie Man is invited to your house for an extended stay. The Boogie man is always lingering and making his presence known. The Boogie Man is cancer, and he’s both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, he is a constant reminder that life is fragile and that we need to celebrate the limited time we have. However, the Boogie Man is also a constant reminder that a recurrence could make that limited time even shorter.
A cancer diagnosis lead me to:
Be Hopeful - Do not look back and lament the days when you suffered from chemotherapy or surgery. Try to create a new path in your life and find a way forward without fear or regret.
Be Grateful - Any living you get after a cancer diagnosis should be cherished and savored. Be grateful for your extra time on this earth and use it wisely. Be thankful. Be humble. Spread joy.
Have Fun - Do the things that bring you joy. Laugh. Spend time with friends and family, and live for today.
Weed Your Garden - If there are people in your life that you have outgrown, then pluck them from your life. We are meant to evolve as humans. Sometimes the garden needs to get weeded to make room for new flowers.
Don’t Wait - If you want to do something in your life, do it. There is never a right time. The time is now.
Take Risks - Try new things. Push past your boundaries. Don’t be scared.
Travel - Sickness is not a traveler’s friend so go now and go often. Experiencing other cultures, eating new foods, and seeing the world brings wonder, joy, and insight. Travel is an excellent way to live fully and with intention.
Speak Your Truth - While honesty is no excuse for bad manners (or cruelty), some things must be said. Share feelings, explore ideas, collaborate, and do not be afraid to speak up.
Love - Be bountiful with your love. Tell people how you feel. Tell them about the impact they have had on your life. Ask for their love in return. Be open to accepting and receiving that love. Hug lots.
I re-read Camille’s article from December 2016 and she said, “As people living through cancer, we have a different perspective on so many things.” Yes, Camille, through your life and your writing, you generously shared your unique perspective and you left us richer for understanding your journey. You will be deeply missed.
(In memory of Camille Scheel, author of Camp Chemo: Postcards Home from Metastatic Breast Cancer, a book about her stage III and stage IV breast cancer experience. Available on amazon.com.)
Author Stephanie Hansen is a Broadcaster @mytalk1071 Weekly Dish radio. Podcaster @MakersofMN. Stephaniesdish.com