I hope you’ll join me as I celebrate 24 years of cancer free in a live Twitter party tonight at 8 p.m. CT. There will be tons of giveaways! We’ll have a chance to give to a really great organization, Compassion that Compels, that helps women in the battle with cancer some love. (Pictured: Compassion that Compels bag delivered just when this beautiful survivor needed it!)
Hash tag: #liveinthenow Will you be there? I hope so!
Years ago when a doctor told me that I had cancer, my life came to a screeching halt. I had a night class on Monday. I was scheduled to bring snacks to my kiddos soccer team on Tuesday. I worked full-time. I was a volunteer at my church. I had three kids. I was a wife.
I’m busy. . . so, let’s just do this another time, okay?
That response didn’t make sense in light of the heavy news I received that day, but it did describe my life.
So when I sat with my friend recently after her diagnosis, I completely understood when she said that she doesn’t have time for cancer. She has things to do, a full calendar, and people depending on her.
It’s scary enough to deal with the unexpected diagnosis but the thought that life as you know it will change over night, well that’s scary too.
After wrapping my arms around her and weeping over the news, I told her the one thing I wished someone would have told me all those years ago. Yes, it’s hard. It’s not your choice. It can be one of the hardest seasons of your life. .
. . but you might be surprised at what you gain.
The day that they wheeled me into surgery and later as I went through chemo and radiation, I had no choice but to slow down. I had no choice but to surrender my schedule. I had no choice but to reevaluate what mattered because suddenly the hundred things that pulled at me on a daily basis weren’t near as important as others.
Cancer gave me clarity.
It’s a gift that continues to impact my life nearly twenty-five years later. It shapes the way I make my choices. It tells me when I need to slow down.
These are the five surprises I found tucked away in a cloud of diagnosis, surgeries, treatment, uncertainty and healing.
I learned what mattered
Richard, Melissa, Ryan, and Leslie — they mattered.
Close family members that wrapped around us close — yep, they were pretty important.
My faith — oh, my goodness, it was essential.
Good friends that mowed our lawn, took my young children on chemo days, fed us until Richard gained an extra 20 pounds, and told corny jokes that made me laugh — they were high on the priority list.
My super busy schedule? Hmm. Not so much.
Things that once consumed my time and thoughts fell away. People matter. God matters. Everything else falls below that line.
I stopped blaming others for my rushed life
Nobody can force you to slow down but you.
Being a mom kept me busy. Certainly, my job and ministry and volunteer work were important. Yet I had to admit that I piled things into my life like there was no bottom.
The first time I truly felt rested was six weeks into chemo. Cancer forced me to take care of myself. To treat my body as if it wasn’t dispensable. To go to sleep when I was tired. It taught me that I could say no to things so that I could say yes to what mattered.
There were some really silly pressures that fell away, like taking my kids out of year-round soccer.
“She’s going to be a soccer star one day. What about scholarships? She really needs to play year-round sports if she’s going to succeed.”
I learned that I could say, “She’s 8. She’ll be okay.”
Saying no does disappoint people (just as I feared) but when I stepped away from assignments that weren’t mine or schedule-packed activities that exhausted all of us, we could all just breathe.
I learned that “one day” begins today
It was my mantra at that time. One day I’ll write about stuff that I love. One day I’ll have more time. One day, when I’m not so busy I’ll do this or that, or I’ll follow God’s leading.
When you are told that you have a 10-40% chance of surviving cancer, suddenly “one day” has an entirely different meaning.
One day begins today.
When treatment ended I invested hope and life into my dreams. I took baby steps toward my “one day” goals.
I discovered that play is as important as work
Before cancer I worried whether the bed was made.
After, I jumped on the bed with my kids.
Before cancer I saw exercise as a must-do.
After, I saw it as an opportunity to live healthy and have fun.
Before cancer, I saw play as something that you do when all the work is done.
Afterwards I savored the joy of sheer play.
I began to treasure my wrinkles
This was the biggest surprise of all. It didn’t happen right away. I was all of 31 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2B cancer.
This happened years later. I looked in the mirror and saw myself aging. Wrinkles around my eyes. One wrinkle just under my nose. A few pounds around my waistline.
Do you know what those wrinkles meant?
I was given one more year to love Richard. One more year to love my son and my daughters. One more year to grow as a person. One more year to pursue my passion. One more year to grow wiser. One more year to learn through my mistakes. One more year to jump on the bed — now with my grandchildren.
I’ll buy those fancy creams but I’ll also point to my wrinkles and call them what they are. . . life lived.
You don’t have to have cancer to enjoy these five surprising gifts.
Take a few minutes and ask yourself these questions. What is one change you can make beginning today?
- Am I rested? Why not?
- Do I take time to enjoy the small and treasured things around me?
- Did I laugh today? If not, why not?
- Have I piled things on my to-do list without weighing their worth (or cost)?
- Do I feel pressured to add activities to my family calendar? If so, how can we compromise as a family to have more down time?
- Do I say no so that I can say yes to what matters?
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Cancer should be scared of you. Seeing the beauty in the dark times is an admirable trait. You’re simply AWESOME!
LOVE this response! “Cancer should be scared of you.” YESSSS!!! Perfectly said!
Suzie this brought tears to my eyes!! I am so thankful for your testimony and the way you embrace LIFE to it’s fullest. You are an example to us all! Now…where did I put my hula-hoop!! 😉
Love you friend xox
I love hula hooping, though it’s been a while! I want to play long into my life span, whatever that looks like.
Suzanne, what a wonderful testimony! You have blessed my heart and so many with your Christ-centered focus in the midst of a life-threatening diagnosis. Many continued blessings to you and your sweet family ❤️
Suzie, this was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing another side to what completely seems like the end of the world. I think the lessons you learned are applicable to all of our end of the world situations. God never waste a hurt! Love your words. Be blessed and I’m praying for you. 🙂 – Kia
Suzie, I love this! I am learning more and more that the hard times teach us what is really important. Thank you for your wise insight.
Suzie, I identify with all five of your statements here, but mostly number two:) “I stopped blaming others for my rushed life.” This statement describes me perfectly! Last year, after my husband and I lost two people very close to us, we radically re-evaluated our priority list. We made drastic changes that were long-overdue. Some were disappointed in our decisions, but I now feel such a peace knowing I am fully enjoying the most important things. Awesome post today:) And congratulations on 24 years!
That’s the very real side of #liveinthenow. Sometimes our decisions might make others feel disappointed. I definitely encountered that. Funny, but the soccer conversation I shared. . . that was one of the times that people were genuinely disappointed in my decision. Yet it was absolutely the right decision for us as a family, and for me.
One child out of hundreds went on to play soccer in college. How many were burnt out and continued on because of the pressure. There’s nothing wrong with sports. There’s a lot right about it. But what if I bought into that same philosophy in all the busy places in our schedule. What if I kept hustling and running, even when we no longer found pleasure, just because others say we should be doing it.
No! Instead we played organized sports one season and unorganized play and family time in the other months. It was the best yes for my family.
this here –> ‘I stopped blaming others for my rushed life.’ yes, yes! it’s so much easier to point the finger at someone else for our bad choices.
illness has a way of winnowing down what’s important. thanks, Suzie, for gleaning the golden nuggets from this rough season.
It does have a way of shouting what’s important. I pray that I never forget. <3
So glad you’re here with all of us, Suzie. And that you encourage us all so beautifully. Blessings and hugs…may you continue being lush and productive well into old age. xxoo
Suzie, What a beautiful post. I’m so thankful you survived and went on to thrive in all of life. I am dealing with some auto immune issues. I felt like the Lord told me this week, when I was leaving yet another doctor’s office, my assignment is to take care of my health. I felt such relief. Yet, I also have felt a little discouraged. Your post was just what I needed.
I struggle with a similar battle, Debbie. It has taken a little coercing, but God finally convinced me that what He was doing in all of this, was asking me to slow my roll. To LIVE. To live in the now. To place my focus on Him and what was important in life. I completely get your discouragement and empathize with you. It’s tough. I’m so grateful for a God who meets us in these places, and offers hope through His son! Praying for you today, sweet lady!
One of my friends who is currently undergoing treatment hasn’t slowed down. I told her that her body will share with her what it needs, and slowing down to nurture, fill up, take care of herself is becoming a clear message. It is one of the gifts and surprises I received in my own treatment. It’s something that I work very hard to remember even today, 24 years later. <3 When I take care of me, there’s more to give to others.
You inspire, Suzanne… you really do. God has filled you up, a vessel for encouraging and lifting up others who need to see brave, grace-filled, victorious stories like yours! Thank you for being that vessel.
Celebrating with you, the God who is bigger than big!
I had no idea that one day I’d be here getting to spend time with beautiful women from all over the country (and beyond) sharing how good He is. That makes me want to dance!
YES God does intend everything for our good! What an awesome story of strength and hope! Thanks so much for sharing. Thanks for sharing the linkup also, this is my first one and it’s fun! I can’t wait to check out all the blogs!
Oh Suzie, I am celebrating your life with you today and I thank God for his healing and his ministry through you which has touched so many hearts, including mine. You are a gift and I’ve learned much over the past couple of years from your story. Thank you for being his willing vessel.
Amen, Suzie! Such a refreshing post! This is just what my heart needed to be reminded of today. Thank you for sharing your perspective with us, so we may #livefree with you. Rejoicing with you, with the life-lived wrinkles, and the bed not made! Much love friend!
It’s amazing how God sometimes needs to entirely pull the rug out from under us to get us to slow down, take Him in, take care of ourselves, take garbage we carry out to the trash. Thank you for sharing these beautiful lessons learned…great reminders for me today! Love the life in your smile 🙂
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and lessons. Beautiful.
I love your discoveries. I thank God that he taught them to you. I am still in process but working “towards.” Much love to you Suzie. May God bless you in all your words that sing his name.