A cancer diagnosis is profound. In just a few words, everything in your life is turned upside down. On an emotional level, you are suddenly forced to come to terms with your mortality. On a practical level, you have to make decisions about treatment options, food, drugs, how to tell your family and much more.
I am one of the lucky ones. As a woman in my 60s, I have so far avoided this terrible disease. That said, as a younger woman, I lost my mother to cancer. I was also one of the first people to write a book about the hospice system in 1980s. While researching this book, I saw hundreds of people dealing with life-threatening illnesses. So, I have a good idea of how a cancer diagnosis can impact a person – at least as far as one can from the outside.
What I have learned over the years is that everyone’s response to a serious illness is different. We may all go through the same stages, but, we feel them differently. I recently interviewed one of our community members, Perley-Ann Friedman (a.k.a. “The Happy Cat”) about her cancer survival story. I hope that you find her story inspirational.
During our interview, Perley-Ann explained that staying positive was one of the most important things that she focused on after receiving her cancer diagnosis.
Perley-Ann’s cancer story started when she found a lump in her breast. Thank goodness she had been proactive in checking regularly as this is one of the main recommendations from doctors. After discovering her potential problem, Perley Ann got a first doctor’s opinion… then a second… then a third. They all agreed. She had breast cancer.
During one such discussion, her doctor asked her a simple question. He asked, “Perley-Ann, do you want to live or die? Quickly! Don’t hesitate. Answer now!” Perley-Ann responded, “I want to live.” And thus began her one-year treatment journey.
Perley-Ann believes that this one question, asked early in her cancer treatment, made all of the difference. She decided to take the situation ultra-seriously and took advantage of every treatment option – traditional and experimental – that her doctor offered her.
Over the next year, she suffered in almost every imaginable way. She gained a lot of weight. She lost her beautiful red hair and her eyebrows vanished. She gritted her teeth and got through the chemo.
Throughout the treatment, she repeated the following mantra, “Bring on the treatments! So what if my hair falls out? So what if I gain weight? So what if people treat me as if I am dead. I am hear and I am choosing life!”
Perley-Ann says that her positive attitude kept her going through the difficult months. She always believed that she was going to live. She had to. So she kept her diet as healthy as possible and continued to exercise.
I won’t give away all of Perley-Ann’s story by writing it here. It’s better to hear from her own mouth. Please watch the interview to find out how Perley-Ann responded when she found out that her friends and family were struggling to accept her diagnosis. Her story truly is inspirational!
Now, 8-years later, Perley-Ann is healthy and living in beautiful Thailand. She says that she has found a new life as a writer, yoga teacher and volunteer. Her life is her own now and, if anything, it is more precious to her than ever.
Have you or anyone that you know survived a cancer diagnosis? What advice would you give to the women in our community who are currently being impacted by cancer, directly or indirectly? Let’s support each other!