National Cancer Survivor's Day: How Surviving Cancer Redefined Strength for Me
On National Cancer Survivor's Day, I'm reminded how fortunate I am to be able to share my story of survival with you. Facing cancer at 36 years old was one of the hardest things I've experienced in my life. I intuitively knew there was a deeper reason I was diagnosed with cancer, that through adversity, I was going to grow. I just couldn't figure out how, but I was determined to find the answer.
The moment I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I was surrounded by the love and support of my family. My mom and brother Brad immediately flew out from their homes in Florida. My mom and I moved in with Cyn, her husband Cole, and my two nephews Ryland and Colt. My mom and I shared a sweet little guest house on their beautiful property in the mountains. Being in nature with my family was the ideal setting to embark on our journey to survive cancer.
As a family, I learned how to face adversity head-on, thanks to my parents who, both survived cancer before me. They taught me that anything was possible in life once you set your mind to it. So as a family, we all assumed our positions and fought this illness together.
My mom never left my side, and together, we discovered the healing power of laughter by watching comedies like Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond. It helped turn dark and scary moments into hours of laughter.
My nephews, who were then 3 and 7, surrounded me with their sweet and youthful energy, that became a big part of my survival. They knew how to make me smile, even on the days when I didn't have the strength to do much else.
The scariest part of my cancer diagnosis was the thought of leaving my twin sis Cyn behind. We were born from the same egg, she was my other half, but more importantly, I was her big sis, (by 5 minutes), I was supposed to be there to protect her. But while surviving cancer Cyn was my rock.
During chemo, I lost all my hair, dropped 40 lbs., and was nearly unrecognizable, Cyn became my mirror. She reminded me every day of who I once was and who I was battling to get back to.
I rested a vision board at the foot of my bed. I filled this board made of cork with photos of the people I loved, trips I saw myself taking, inspirational quotes, and a picture of a couple on their wedding day. It was a daily reminder of what precisely I was living for. It steadied my focus and gave me the strength to never give up.
I found great comfort in hearing stories from other survivors who gave me a glimpse of what life beyond cancer could look like. It gave me the hope that I too could win my battle with cancer. This inspired me to speak out about the impact of this disease and share my story publicly. Through it all, I learned that surviving cancer wasn't something I could muscle through alone. It's a disease we must face together.
Because I survived cancer, I was able to discover an inner strength in allowing myself to be vulnerable and lean on others. This enabled me to meet and marry my husband Adam and create more meaningful relationships with my family and friends.
I am grateful to say that I've been cancer free now for 7 years! I'm honored that I can help give support to others by continuing to share my story and raise awareness. My cancer diagnosis was advanced; if I had been diagnosed five years earlier, I likely wouldn't have survived. Advances in cancer research are what help make more effective treatments possible, to ultimately make people like me into a cancer survivor.
There is an undeniable strength and power to move cancer research forward when we choose to Stand Up To Cancer together. Every shared story and dollar invested in collaborative cancer research brings us closer to the day when every cancer patient can become a long-term survivor. It is a movement I am proud to be a part of with you.
Sweet Collection xo By Brittany +Cynthia Daniel