The moment I was diagnosed, my life as I knew it was over. Not over over, of course, but changed forever. That moment when my mom, standing with my dad and husband, told me that I had Stage IV colon cancer, was the precise moment when I assumed total responsibility for my health.
It's a major responsibility, and one that I had pretty much shirked before that moment. And why not? I was 28 years old and plugging away at the life I had always dreamed of -- who needed to stop and think about health issues? My body would just keep plugging away with me, I thought.
As we know, that wasn’t quite right.
Despite the bumps and bruises and foot-long incision wound down my belly (it’s probably longer than that), I consider cancer to be the greatest wake-up call of my life. It's not a curse, and it's not a tragedy. It gave me the opportunity to live healthily, carefully, and thoughtfully. It gave me the opportunity to triumph over fear, dread, and anxiety. It helped me love and live deeper and richer than I had before, which didn’t really seem possible. And it taught me one of the most important life-lessons that little else could have taught me: to treat my body with the utmost care and respect in everything I do.
As I'm wrapping up these last couple of rounds of chemo (I'll have completed 13 rounds by the end of this little song and dance), I'm transitioning back to my regularly-scheduled, normal life. But it's a new normal. My health is always at the forefront of my mind. Every meal I eat, every hour I sleep, and every minute of exercise is all devoted to achieving a healthier, cancer-free me. Taking care of myself is a full time job.
Sometimes the reality of it all smacks me upside the head -- at the age of 29, I’m part of a select few that have the opportunity to conquer an advanced stage of cancer and a particular brand of cancer that most consider fatal. I am more concerned and more focused on my health than almost anyone else my age, and I have gone through more physical challenges than almost everyone I know. As a result of this cancer-killing adventure, my life is always going to be lived deliberately, with all of my efforts focused on developing and maintaining a truly healthy lifestyle -- healthy in mind, body, and spirit. A vegan diet, daily exercise, acupuncture, meditation, sleep and rest, laughter, avoiding toxic relationships and high fructose corn syrup and hard liquor like the plague, and cherishing the people and moments that make my life unbelievably great.
No, my life is not "normal." But who needs normal? And seriously, when have I ever been normal?