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Cancer Survivor Says “Let Go of the Little Stuff”

Cancer Survivor Says “Let Go of the Little Stuff”

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
(#22 in a series)

“I seize the day much more than I did before, says triple-negative breast cancer survivor Meagan Farrell. “Each day feels like a blessing, so I make the most of it. I’m also much better about letting go of the little stuff. I let things roll off much more easily now as I realize how precious and short life is, and that in the end, most of it really doesn’t matter anyway.”

When she woke up in the middle of the night with a pinching in her chest, Meagan had a “gut feeling” that it was something bad and immediately suspected breast cancer. She’d never felt a lump in her breast before, and it was frighteningly large. She visited her doctor the very next morning.

Tests revealed a very fast-growing tumor. As for triple-negative breast cancer, she’d never heard of it. There are a few instances of cancer in her very large family tree, but no breast cancer. With a daughter and two nieces, she was relieved to learn that she tested negative for the BRCA gene. (The risk of breast or ovarian cancer is greatly increased in women who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. Men with these gene mutations also are at increased risk of breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.)

This aggressive cancer prompted an aggressive response. Her treatment included a double mastectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy, and six weeks of radiation, and now she’s looking forward to breast reconstruction. She also used acupuncture therapy to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy.

With treatment behind her, Megan is paying more attention to her diet. “I’m eating more fruits and veggies. I was always a healthy eater, but I’ve taken it to a new level — I realize that my healthy body is the most important thing.”

“Keep the negative out of your life.”
Meagan says the worst part is waiting for the test results. “Once you get your plan, you can focus on that instead of wondering. Also, keep the negative out of your life. Put a bubble around you and your family and don’t let any negativity in. You need only positive around you during this time. Love and support only.”

So how did she manage to keep negativity out and positivity in? “You have to focus on you and your health.” She steered clear of people who sapped her energy, focusing instead on the “awesome people who would come over, cheer me on, pitch in to help, etc. I focused on them and gave them full access.”

She also avoided support groups and online chat rooms. “I had no energy to support others who were really down and out. I had to focus on me. I know this sounds selfish, but I had to focus on my wellness. I met a woman in cancer patient yoga who had a similar diagnosis and was really freaking out that she might die. I tried to lift her up, but she was just really freaked, so I had to stop going to yoga, as she would latch on and need to vent. I couldn’t let my mind go there. It was a war between me and cancer and I had to focus on my goal and my victory.”

“We try to give back.”
With a good health insurance plan in place, Meagan has a lot of empathy for those who don’t. That’s why she participates in the annual Strides Against Breast Cancer walk held by the Everett Cancer Partnership, raising money to assist people who cannot afford treatment. “We understand what a horrid hardship this would be for anyone without health care, so we try to give back.”

Although she had to slow down during treatment, 42 year-old Meagan is going full throttle working as a professional organizer. Here’s a woman who let go of the little stuff in order to get well, and spends her days organizing the big stuff for others. Clearing the clutter in your mind and clearing the clutter in your home — cancer or not, that sounds like a recipe for better days to come.

Meagan gratefully acknowledges the Breast Center and the Cancer Center in Everett, Washington, both of which she calls “amazing!” She also feels blessed to have had the support of her husband, daughter, family, and friends. The future is looking good.

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series
#1 The Lump in my Breast: Meeting the Enemy
#2 Most Breast Lumps are Non-Cancerous: Would mine be?
#3 The Mammogram, the Ultrasound, and ‘the Look’
#4 The Biopsy and Breast Cancer Confirmation
#5 A New Twist: It’s Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#6 Before the Mastectomy: Planning for the Future
#7 Mastectomy Day: What it’s like to lose a breast
#8 After the Mastectomy: Unveiling and Staging
#9 10 Odd Things to Say to Someone with Breast Cancer
#10 Cancer Battle Plan Phase 2: Chemotherapy
#11 5 Things I Love About my Very Expensive Health Insurance
#12 10 Simple Gestures of Kindness with Healing Power
#13 Half a Year on Chemotherapy and Taking Nothing for Granted
#14 Breast Cancer Treatment: Weighing Reward and Risk
#15 The Radiation Decision, The Long Road, The Badge of Honor
#16 The Healing Power of Nurses
#17 Grieving Son Recounts Mom’s Battle with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#18 Searching for “Normal” After Cancer
#19 “Did You Beat Cancer?” they want to know
#20 5 Things About Breast Cancer You Should Take to Heart
#21 Living with a Grateful Vibration

Access all posts in the Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series

Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Image: iStockPhoto.com

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27 comments

+ add your own
12:48AM PST on Mar 7, 2014

Reading what I wrote below sounds very hard. Well, it's like this.

I thought that the accident had taken up a year of my life. To enjoy as much as possible of the things that I would have gone crazy thinking about if I hadn't banned them from my thoughts, I must live a year longer. But how do you arrange that?

I have every intention of living to be 100, if I can manage it. and I'm thinking of quality life. So first I need loads of endorphins in my system, but I normally score well on that. Secondly the hospital food was so good I was horrified at my weight, so I'd successfully lost 2 stone, but I want to lose more. I realised that thinking of this former friend more gently plunged me into depression, and I was comfort eating to the point when I was putting on weight.

So to look after myself I have to silently adopt whatever attitude works best.

12:37AM PST on Mar 7, 2014

2013 will go down in my memory as The Year of the Accident. As soon as I woke up in hospital I realised that I wasn't going to enjoy the summer I normally enjoy. So I immediately realised that I normally lived with a certain amount of frustration, not having time to paint all the paintings that are in my head. I immediately vowed that I would focus on being able to paint them instead. Three things were taboo: thinking about the accident, cars, or the events I was missing. So I enjoyed painting things that had been in my head for years, reading more of the lovely books I collect, and sewing projects, and having time for these things. I stayed cheerful, and when people discovered that my rules were: ‘Don’t think about the things I can’t do; think about the things I can do’, they congratulated me on being positive.

(more)

12:35AM PST on Mar 7, 2014

According to Meagan Farell: ‘She steered clear of people who sapped her energy, focusing instead on the “awesome people who would come over, cheer me on, pitch in to help, etc. I focused on them and gave them full access.” ‘

Yes indeed! And when one of them suddenly turns out to be irrational, and unpredictable, to put it mildly! This woman has sapped my mental energy and the shock of it caused me depression. Now I’ve managed to distance myself from her by not focusing on trying to get on with her, but viewing her as having a screw loose... Nah....not one screw. Several screws loose!’ Viewing her as crazy took a while, but it distances me from hurt and brings me back on track!

The point is that 'the little stuff' can really bug you until you find the way to distance yourself from it.

11:28PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

I've had two episodes of "that spot looks suspicious--how long has it been there?" calls to a dermatologist. They were only basal cell cancer, easily managed by extraction, Mohs surgery on the second (on my nose). I know I have to keep checking. If it hadn't been for those eternal cancer PSAs in several media, I wouldn't have had the signs running through my head to make me aware of what might be. I am grateful for them being basal cells only: I have a long-distance friend who's fighting melanomas. He's got a blog to share progress and other issues, to which I subscribe.

My sister and I weren't supposed to get to birth, much less survive it and get to the first month, because our parents were rh-incompatible. We have NEVER thought, Oh, woe, I'm getting older! as many friends have done. At each birthday, we acknowledge having beaten the odds against us.

For survivors of cancer and major injuries or major surgeries, as well as those with chronic diseases like MS and Parkinsons, that acknowledgement is likely daily.

9:01PM PDT on Oct 14, 2011

"Clearing the clutter in your mind and clearing the clutter in your home — cancer or not, that sounds like a recipe for better days to come."

I like that recipe!

9:11PM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

what you think about coronary artery disease
i gonna do project about coronary
can you give me some suggest about it

8:47PM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

good advice - thanks

7:43PM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

A good message. It is good to make the most of life. And we can protect our happiness and help others to achieve it.

4:15PM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Thanks

3:25PM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story and a great perspective on life and living for the moment. Best of luck to you and your speedy recovery!

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Kathleen J. Kathleen is currently the Activism Coordinator at Care2. more
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