Let me take you back nearly two decades. I spent my entire childhood raised in a negative environment, living on a diet of McDonald’s and Diet Coke. I didn’t understand that a high-stress environment and poor nutrition could destroy my body.
I thought I was invincible, as many young people believe.
I was 17 years old, and it was September 13th of my senior year. I was driving home from school when I was in a major car accident that (I believe) should have killed me. Less than 24 hours later, with my spleen removed, I was told that I had Stage Three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
I needed to get started on chemotherapy and radiation immediately (which I refused, but at 17 I wasn’t allowed to make those decisions).
I spent the next year living in a world of not knowing whether I would survive, trying to handle my body being destroyed by drugs and not knowing that there were ways nutrition and self-love could help ease the pain. I received the highest level of chemotherapy available. But I wasn’t allowed to cry. I wasn’t allow to express one single thing.
It was the single most difficult thing I have been through in my entire life.
Fast forward 19 years. It has taken a long time to “overcome” this disease, and it’s a continuous process that I am happy to be here to take part in.
I refuse to be a survivor. That word has such a negative connotation to me, so after 19 years I’ve finally become a cancer overcomer. How did I do it, you might ask? I’d love to share it with you!
1. I’ve acknowledged this disease.
Not in a hey, we’re friends kind of way, come visit me again, but more like, I acknowledge you came into my body. I acknowledge that you existed and that you challenged me in every way possible. I know why you were here. Cancer was in my body for a reason, and I surprisingly grew so much from it that I can’t even recognize the person I was when it overtook me.
2. I’ve learned from this disease.
I’ve learned that I am tough, and that I can survive anything I put my mind to. I know that there are different ideas of “tough,” and not all of them are good. But from this, my toughness shows me that when I put forth of the effort I have, I can survive anything.
I’ve also learned that it’s okay that my body isn’t perfect, and that no one’s is. I finally understand that I’m not of less value because of it. If I tell people about this disease—something that’s been a secret for nearly 19 years—it helps me to heal.
Lastly, I’ve learned from the challenges that I had after beating the disease, and that is what allows me to help others heal.
3. I’m at peace with this disease.
This one has taken me an exceptionally long time. In my mind, I am finally at peace with this disease. I trust that I take exceptional care of myself. I know that I feed my body the way that I should. I feel totally comfortable believing that this disease will never enter my body. This allows me to have a sense of peace about my past and my childhood.
I forgive every single person that hurt me when I had that disease! I forgive my body and I forgive myself.
4. I’ve learned to appreciate my body from this disease.
If I continued on the path that I was raised, I would have not valued my body. Having cancer and overcoming it has taught me how to respect my body, how to appreciate it and how to do everything it takes to make it my best body possible. I feed it nutritious foods. I get enough sleep. I drink a lot of water. I don’t eat chemicals or processed foods. I make time for exercise and self-care. If I hadn’t had cancer I would not do those things, and I have no doubt I would be in terrible shape.
5. I’ve learned that this disease has pushed me towards my life purpose.
Looking back over a timeline of my life, I learned that one of the times I could have used the most help was after I overcame this disease, but lost my immunity and my energy. This is why I am here. I was put through that disease to help me teach others what I have learned. When I overcame this disease, I didn’t understand that I was literally going to change every single piece of my life, get my body functioning again and live the life that I could only dream of at 17 years old.
6. I have gratitude.
Before I had this disease, I wasn’t grateful for anything, and it hurts to write that. However, when I was put in a situation where I knew there may not be a future for me, I had to acknowledge how wonderful this world was and how much I wanted to make an impact on it.
I became grateful for the seasons. Grateful for the challenges that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Grateful for the bad days—so I knew what the good days were. Grateful to be able to wake up every single morning and make a difference in this world.
I hope that this story encourages you and empowers you. I know it’s a long process to overcome things.
My suggestion to you is to make note of all of the small things! Our triumphs are sometimes hard to keep fresh in our minds when we change. Write down your small triumphs for the day. Acknowledge them and appreciate them.
You are worth it, you are loved and you are here and reading this for a reason.
Author: Tiffany Lengyel
Editor: Toby Israel