What I've learned from my Cancer Journey 14yrs ago.

Cynthia Besteman

Well, well, well, this one almost slipped by me. Fourteen years. In some ways, it feels like two lifetimes ago; in others, it's as if it happened just yesterday. I never imagined there would come a time when I'd forget the anniversary of the day I was told I had cancer. But fortunately, I have a sweet friend who knew the day was approaching and asked how I wanted to celebrate. My response? "Celebrate what?!" And then it hit me. What struck me next was the power of forgetting such a momentous moment in my life. How on earth could I have forgotten? Is that a good thing? A bad thing? A sign that I'm over it? Or maybe a sign that I'm losing my mind and need to take memory vitamins?!

I chalk it up to the fact that life goes on regardless of whether you've had cancer. Surviving cancer doesn't make you immune to life's other challenges. This past year has been a huge survival year for me. So, alongside my cancerversary survival, I've chosen to celebrate all the other things I've survived and am surviving this year. I hope in reading this, you'll see all the things you're also surviving that deserve to be celebrated. Amidst your day with its stresses, pains, fears, or moments where you feel like you might not make it through, remember this: you are getting through it. You're still standing, still moving, still figuring it out. And because of that, you deserve to take a moment to stop, reflect, and realize how amazing you are for simply surviving.

I used to think I'd get a free pass on fear, pain, and life's challenges simply because I had cancer. I thought, "Well, that took care of all the dreadful things I'll have to go through, right? Nothing can be as bad as cancer. Life should be sunshine and roses for me now, shouldn't it?" Well, that was wishful thinking, or naivety, or just plain dumb! And this past year proved it loud and clear!

I've learned that in life, one thing is constant: there is no consistency. I've longed for days where I sail through without a care in the world, where I'm healthy, my loved ones are safe, I have money in the bank, my business keeps growing, and life resembles those TV shows from the '60s. That's not too much to ask for, right? I mean, I had CANCER, so I should get all that, right? Well, the universe has shown me that's absolutely not the case. Cancer was just one thing I had to endure in a long list of challenges.

After this past year, I've learned to be joyful despite things going wrong, to not be consumed by constant fears of things going awry because, in life, things will go wrong. No one gets out of here alive, and no one gets out unscathed.

I'm grateful that my cancer was early stage and that I had amazing care thanks to my great, albeit super expensive health insurance. I'm grateful I had eight months to be with my dad at the end of his life and that I was able to find forgiveness. I showed him that he raised pretty spectacular children who stepped in without question when he needed us after his wife died and his health failed, and we were surrounding him as he passed.

I'm grateful that although my relationship of over 20 years ended, I'm proud that I was able to make the difficult decision to walk away when it wasn't serving either of us. Although we both stayed in it longer than we should have, we made the decision to part so that both of us could find our ultimate happiness. I could have stayed out of financial fear, but I did not. Am I still terrified? Yes, but am I happy with my decision? Also yes.

I'm grateful that my sister is through her breast cancer treatment and doing great. She's about to embark on a journey walking through France to celebrate her finishing treatment. I got a message to celebrate mine, which clearly shows how we handle things differently!

I'm grateful I made the hard decision to leave the city I had lived in for 35 years. It was an extremely hard decision to leave the epicenter of the world, but the city was no longer serving me, and I needed more peace. I'm still terrified of the impact it may have on my business, but if I'm suffering and unhappy, then my business is too.

I'm grateful that my mom survived and is now thriving after her mystery illness that plagued her this past summer. She kept fighting, even though she could barely move or keep anything down, and her spirit never wavered. She pushed back when doctors' answers didn't make sense, and I'm grateful that she is bullheaded! (That is the ONLY time I will say that!)

I'm grateful I have a family who supported my move across the country back to Seattle as I could not have financially or emotionally done it without them.

I'm grateful for my friends who sent me off with love from NYC and for my lifelong friends who welcomed me back to Seattle with open arms. The emotional support on both sides has been nothing short of amazing.

I'm grateful that although my business may be struggling a bit due to financial constraints, I have the most amazing customers and support team that picks me up when I think I can't go on. I'm determined to stay afloat on my own and rustle up money somehow when things are dire. So far, it has worked out, and I will continue to believe that. Our retail partners are the BEST, and their support of a small brand like mine never ceases to amaze me.

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