Others Have Made it Through This - So Can You

Elisa and her husband on vacation
Monday, August 18, 2014

I was 40 years old when the results of a biopsy confirmed I had Stage 2 breast cancer. That diagnosis was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

Before cancer I was a healthy, independent bachelorette. I suddenly found myself relying on friends and family to get through some of the most difficult stages in my journey. I had a lumpectomy and removal of lymph nodes, followed by eight visits to the chemotherapy suite and six weeks of daily radiation appointments after that.

I was diagnosed on January 18, 2006 and had my last treatment on October 31 – almost a year of my life.

I often reflect on what I learned from this experience, and what I would say to others going through a similar battle. I learned that attitude is everything. But every once in a while, it’s OK to have a really bad attitude!

I tried to stay positive throughout my cancer experience. I figured the next year of my life was going to be pretty uncomfortable, but my odds were pretty good. If I followed the course of treatment I would come out the other end just fine. Regardless of how good a prognosis may be, you can’t have cancer without going to that scary place where you think it might be the beginning of the end.

When you get to that place, it’s important to have someone to talk to. It’s not always easy to talk to your support network – they always want to pump you up and encourage positive thinking, not to mention they don’t want to think those scary thoughts about you either. Sometimes a good cry can be therapeutic. If you don’t have a family member or friend to visit that “dark place” with, there are supports available. Sometimes you need to go “there”, get it out of your system, and then come back into warrior mode where your positive, fighting attitude will kick cancer’s butt.

There was nothing more therapeutic for me than hearing from survivors.

I would search for stories and people who went through the same experience and came out the other end. Upon hearing my diagnosis, a number of people came forward to share their experiences with me. I will forever be grateful to them for showing me that this horrible, all-consuming disease would at some point just be a blip in my history.

It’s important to know you’re not alone. Support groups, either in person or on-line, can be so useful. I utilized both. Sometimes your mind drifts to the worst possible outcome, so it’s good to see and hear examples of the best possible outcomes. Talking to others who are in the same boat as you can be a real stress reliever – other people have made it through this and so can you.

My advice for others would be to use the time to slow down, stop and smell the roses, meditate, journal, rest, read, exercise, eat healthy, treat yourself, and look inward. By slowing down I learned what was really important in my life and was able turn away from the people and things that did not support my new vision of how I wanted to live my life.

Watch Elisa’s video and learn about the things that helped her to stay positive, and the special advice she was given by her parents.

During the month of August, the South West Regional Cancer Program will introduce you to four brave individuals who were diagnosed with cancer. Through words and video, they will share their personal stories of strength, struggle and survival with you. Stay tuned to southwestcancer.ca each week for a new survivor story, or follow us on twitter @sw_cancer.

Meet our other survivors: