“I am brave” should be the mantra of every single human on the planet for this past year! I was not sure I had something more to say about cancer, as I felt I had shared my story. However, the end of 2020 came quickly and as an epic year not to be forgotten. Then as always, the thought came to me in the middle of the night. I may have more to say. As I sat and pondered all things good and bad about this past year, I know it has been different for each person. We are all going to read the same end-of-year essays about how awful this past year was, how we survived, blah blah blah. We may have survived, but will we ever be the same? If we are not the same, will that be such a bad thing? Oh yes, it is awful for every person on the planet. Not one person got a pass this year.  We have all been tested in the same and in very different ways. With so much turmoil in 2020, Covid has shown us we can look at each other and see how we are actually more alike than we ever thought possible. How humankind can band together for the greater good when the chips are down for so many. We all had to deal with Covid, and the devastation this virus brought upon the entire world. We have had to live a life that seemed unfathomable a little less than one year ago. Who would have ever thought that going to a restaurant, or hugging a family member or old friend could put your life and others at risk?

No one escaped the wrath of Covid this past year. The fear of it all has been and is still unbearable. We have come far almost a year later, but still the fear and anticipation of what lies ahead continues. Our lives are still not the same but we are learning to live more safely.  The hurricane-like destruction this virus is leaving behind will be written about in text books for generations to come. There will be stories of heartache, heroism and people just being plain stupid. Each person’s story will be different. We cannot compare anyone’s struggle with our own. We each have a road to travel, and if you are like me you believe it is predetermined, so you take what you are given and figure out how to keep going. 

I, like so many other people have had many battles this past year, personally and professionally. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of  2020, I thought that was going to be the biggest hurdle I would have to conquer. A double mastectomy, chemotherapy, proton therapy, and PT. Nope, not this year, 2020 was the year that kept on giving. On top of everything on my plate, I had to add Covid into the mix. Washing groceries, figuring out how I was going to get groceries (especially toilet paper), Black Lives Matter, a President’s Impeachment, Australian bush fires, Kobe Bryant’s death, watching people stand in lines for food, massive unemployment and the list goes on and on. My head would spin every time I put the news on. The cherry on top? I almost lost the company that took my husband and I twenty-five years to build together, because of a single mistake a person made by checking the wrong box on a job that cost $437,000!  All of these things seemed insurmountable. But were they? My mantra for 2020 had been “good times” with a very big splash of sarcasm. When faced with obstacles, how you go about mastering them defines the person you are and the vibe you put out into the world.   

My theory about life has been evolving daily over the last year. I can tell you it has not always been positive. I have had some very bad days and some really good days. I know I will live in constant pain the rest of my life. However, as time passes and I see what is happening, I know I need to focus on the good news and that is, I AM here and I AM blessed. There are going to be many things we will want to forget about 2020, but we cannot. We must remember every lesson we learned and figure out the best way to live in 2021 and beyond. This leads me to my point. No matter what we are all going through, it is the little things that keep us going. For me, it is the little things in life that make life worth living. I checked off all the brave boxes this year, enough for a lifetime. No person should have to go to every treatment alone for almost a year, but I did, just like every other sick person in the ENTIRE world. We all did it, we are all brave. We all have been living in a new world for almost a year now. We are all brave.  2021 should be a time when we focus on the little things. Little acts of kindness are actually big to the recipient. We cannot get away from the little things that make up our daily life. They are sometimes important and sometimes superficial, but they are what make us who we are. I have learned to embrace the little things that make me, me. For 2021 and into the future, rather than just focus on changing the big things, I am going to try and change some of the little things. Sometimes a small change can institute a bigger change. I dare you all to try. Be Braver.

What may seem insignificant to one person could be a lifeline to another. I have always had a massive amount of hair. Losing my hair at first was not a big deal, wearing a wig solved the problem. My real issue started when my hair started to grow back (at a snail’s pace) and 40% gray. Everyone says you look great. I say no way. I think, how can I worry about something so stupid after what I have been through, but I do because my hair was always a part of who I was before, and now it is gone. I need to tell myself it is okay to have short hair, I am not defined by my hair and I can be brave without a wig. In the middle of it all, I was worried about when my hair was going to grow back and when my skin was not going to look yellow. I was worrying about the little things that made the big things (like dying) not seem so frightening. 

My story is no more important than the next person’s. What we live with and how we live our life defines us. My cancer diagnosis and year-long fight is no more important than something you may be going through. We each need to find our way and our why, each and every day.  Why do we get up, why do we do what we do? I found out I had cancer during a pandemic and almost lost my livelihood simultaneously. Cancer, I had no control of, Covid no control of, and a work mistake made by someone else, no control of. The easiest thing would have been to give up during those sunny days of March 2020, but that was not an option. I have so many “why’s”! I am truly blessed and it simply was not in my DNA to give up. When faced with adversity, my first response is to fight…and fight hard. I have been like that my entire life.

It is now March of 2021, and we are coming up on the anniversary of our world shutting down. I can look back at what I have been through, what I have worried about, what I have seen and what I want my life to look like. I am Brave.