Things My Body Told Me After A Cancer Diagnosis
“The mole we removed is a melanoma in-situ…,” the doctor told me on the phone, as I jerked up from the couch and tried to untangle the questions and fears that were wrapped around each other in my head. It was December 2011, and I had just turned 30 years old.
At the time, my head was paralyzed with fear and anger. I asked myself all the questions with answers that only the universe held. Why did this happen to me? Will I live a normal life? Why did I bathe in the sun as a teenager? I couldn't think. I just remember feeling scared and lonely.
As the result of my melanoma in-situ diagnosis though, I took a good look at my life and how I was living it. I was about to move in with my (now) fiancé, I had a great job and had been very successful in my career, had amazing friends and family, and almost everything about me looked pulled together from the outside.
Clearly, my insides felt differently. And so my search began for better health…
As a big believer in the mind-body connection, I realized that something in my body was “off” for me to have this diagnosis at such a young age. I ate healthily, I exercised, drank lots of water, and I took vitamins. Isn’t that the algorithm doctors emphasize when they talk about preventing disease and slowing aging? If I was following the algorithm though, then something must not be working for my body to have grown a melanoma.
When I took a closer look at myself, I realized that I merely went through the motions of eating healthily, exercising, drinking water, and taking vitamins. I did those things because you were supposed to, but I didn’t listen to how they made my body feel. Once I realized I was not paying attention to my body and its requests, things started falling into place for me.
I asked myself, "What is it that my body is telling me to do?" And it answered. In no particular order, here is what my body told me:
I have done yoga on and off for many years but never felt like it was my type of workout to commit to, instead opting for spinning or squash… something more “intense.” Once I started yoga, I was hooked. It not only helped me love and appreciate my body more, but it also helped me gain strength – both mentally and physically.
Consume more nutrients.
I started juicing and have been reaping the benefits ever since, including better energy and a greater feeling of wellness. A long-standing vegetarian, I decided to go a step further and cut out milk products, eggs, and gluten. My body smiled in return.
Be kind to myself.
I have been (and still am to some extent) a perfectionist in life. It’s all or nothing for me. So being kind to myself (for me) meant realizing that just being ok was perfect sometimes. I did not have to do grueling hour-long workouts when I was exhausted and only wanted to put in 20 minutes. Twenty minutes was enough sometimes. I did not have to deliver sparkling presentations to all of my clients all the time. Sometimes a discussion was enough.
Indulge in life.
I have always saved as much money as I could from my paycheck because I want to make sure my fiancé and I can retire. We go on vacation a couple times a year, but I always felt guilty spending the money. It will be great to have a nice retirement, but I don’t want to miss feeling the joy of my life now, so I enjoy the occasional indulgence when something really speaks to me.
While I still have moments of fear, having a melanocytic lesion helped me get in touch with myself. It helped me love myself and others in a kinder, gentler way. It helped me live for now rather than wait for pleasure later. It helped me cherish having an able body. And so much more…
What’s in your way? Maybe it’s time we all slowed down to listen to what life is telling us and what our bodies are asking for the next time we encounter a hurdle.