A diagnosis of breast cancer is scary, eye-opening, frustrating, and challenging, and if we allow it to be, it’s a powerful teacher.
This month as I approach the 12-year anniversary since my first diagnosis of breast cancer, I reflect on all the lessons I’ve learned along the way…so far.
It’s true that time can lessen the intensity of the fear and trauma of a diagnosis and treatment, but one thing I’ve learned for myself and witnessed in others is that real transformation comes from having the willingness to do the work of being open to change.
But in order to stay in that space, the ability to trust yourself is essential.
When a diagnosis seems to sever the relationship between you and your body, and being in the medical system leaves you feeling at the mercy of other people’s decisions, learning to trust in yourself can be harder than ever.
In this episode, I’ll share my own struggle to trust my intuition, and I’ll share some insights that will hopefully lead you back to believing in yourself as the expert on you.
Read the full transcript below:
Laura Lummer 00:00
You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started.
Laura Lummer 00:32
Hello, hello, welcome to episode number 258 of the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And this is a pretty big deal for me this podcast this episode, because this month, the month of July is a pretty big deal. The month of July is when I initially was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. It was the morning of July 3 that I woke up, realized I didn't have to get up because it was an extended holiday. And in fact, the days fell exactly as they did this year and 2023 were the fourth of July was on a Tuesday. And so it was an extended holiday I was off Monday and Tuesday, I woke up realized I didn't have to get up and go to work, rolled back over and bed and as my arm fell across my chest and landed across my breast and I felt the lump. And I knew I knew when I felt that lump, something was very wrong. And it was a holiday the next day. So July 5, I was at my doctor's office. And that's when the whole wheels started turning. That's when we started doing all the diagnostics and I had my diagnosis on July 11. Now, I think you'll probably agree with me that once we have a diagnosis of breast cancer, there are some dates that we just don't forget. And hearing that diagnosis, I think is one of those dates. And then they may shift for everyone. I remember the dates that I was diagnosed, obviously, and I remember the dates of my surgeries. But I don't remember the day I started chemotherapy. I do remember the day that I ended chemotherapy, that was a really big deal. That was a major celebration. So I think that this is just such a huge, impactful events that we go through in life, that for each of us, that may be different dates that stand out to you. But there are just things that when they come up after going through this, they bring up emotion, they bring up thoughts and reflections. And I think rightfully so, I really enjoy taking this time in July and reflecting back on how much my life has changed on how much has shifted since having a cancer diagnosis. And it's interesting. It's not that my life is different because I had cancer. But because I had the cancer diagnosis, I made a decision to change my life. I made a decision that there were some things in my life that were not working. And that I needed to be able to live in a way that was very true to myself. I struggled a long time to figure that way out. It was not an easy road. And there were many, many challenges. So we can look at a cancer diagnosis. And I think sometimes people say, you know, it was such a blessing that I had cancer because so much good came from it. Well, I do believe that because I had that diagnosis, I have created a tremendous amount of great stuff in my life. Because it inspired me to think differently, and to put the energy and the work into making those changes that need to be done. There were a lot of challenges along the way, going through cancer going through cancer treatment is not easy. It's not easy, emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, mentally. It's challenging. It challenges our relationships and challenges, the very fiber of everything we do in life. But if we rise up to that if we're willing to feel the intense discomfort of those challenges, and we're still willing to believe in ourselves, and we're still willing to be open to making change and find the support we need to make that change. Then I believe yes, we can have a completely different life and that's a result of this Wake Up Call of cancer. It's this diagnosis that says we'll wake up what is happening. Is this the life I want to be living. Some of it yes, some of it. No, all of it. Yes, all of it. No, it's just a great time for reflection. And for me, the anniversary of that diagnosis is also a great time of reflection. I really do use this month and look back and think am I living the life I want to live right now. Am I doing the things I want to do? If not why? When thinking that's holding me back from doing the things that I want to do from achieving my goals from going on my adventures? What, if anything is stopping me? And what do I want to change? What do I need to get better at? What do I want to get better at? What do I want to leave behind what I want to take forward into my next anniversary year? I know people, a lot of people do that personal inventory on New Year's Day or a New Year's Eve a lot of times, and I guess for me, it's this cancer anniversary, the diagnosis anniversary is kinda like New Year, it's like, wow, I made it another year, 12 years. And for the initial diagnosis, two and a half years in from the stage for diagnosis, I'm still here, I'm still going, I still have goals, I still have dreams, and I still plan on achieving all of them. So I thought for this month for the podcast in celebration of that. And hopefully so for some inspiration out there. For those of you listening, I just wanted to share some of the biggest lessons that I've learned over this 12 years. And it's really hard to decide on what those lessons were because as I reflected back on so much change that has occurred in that time, it's difficult to pick out the most powerful lessons because there's so many and because I continue every single day to learn. It's amazing to me, when I look at my life, how much of my life now is invested truly invested in self reflection and introspection. And I do that to be Gosh, aware and on top of and making sure that I always keep life as my priority. That sounds kind of weird, because of course you're living and it's important to live, but I mean, enjoying my life and creating my life. And realizing that I'm no different than any other human being in this world. No one knows when their last day on this planet is going to be and I'm no different. It doesn't matter that I have active disease or not. I'm no different. But the difference is, it's very real for me like I get it right. Many people if they haven't had a diagnosis, if you're not living with something, you may not get it at this deep level that hey, time for real is tentative people time, you never know how much you have left. So for me when I say I do a lot of introspection and invest a lot of time into really thinking about and working on my life because I want it to be everything every day. Is this the day I want to live today. And if that day that I want to live today is out walking on the beach or creating a new program or coaching people or taking time off to watch Netflix. I don't know. But is this what I really want to be doing? Am I living life intentionally? And that has become a real priority for me? Am I 100% present in the decisions that I'm making in the actions that I'm taking? And if not, why not? Why am I not choosing to show up? 100%? What's going on there? Is this something I really want? Is this something I just believe I want for some other reason. And so I think being very intentional about evaluating the things I do and don't do, sometimes the things I say I want to do, but I'm not doing them Why Why am I not taking action? These kinds of things are really important for me. And I think recognizing these anniversaries helps to keep that top of mind for me as well. So going back to wanting to share some of the most powerful lessons. I wanted to start off with what I believe is cashed. I don't know if I would say it's the single number one. But it sure is really important for a strong foundation for building and living the life you want. And you know, my slogan for building a life that is better than before breast cancer. And I really believe that that thing is to learn to trust and love yourself. We have to learn to trust ourselves to believe in ourselves, to value ourselves. And as I've gone through this journey and my own personal evolution, and been so frigging honored to be able to support and guide so many other amazing women as they go through their own evolution and their own transformation. I see over and over again, that so many of us it's very common to the women I work with and to what I've seen that we've held back on who we are, you know who you really want to be. I think that there's a lot of adherence to social expectations that goes on in life all around life. But as we're looking at how do I create a life that's better than before I got a cancer diagnosis. How do I make sure I'm living my most authentic life? I really truly believe that comes down to believing in yourself. You've got to allow yourself have to trust yourself. You know, we say go with your gut, leave in your gut, listen to your intuition. And in fact, in Kelly Turner's radical remission, trusting your intuition is one of the 10 healing factors that she teaches in radical remission. And I believe so strongly that that is a critical and important way of building a better life for yourself. Because our intuition speaks to us on so many levels. It's not just with treatments. And you know, recently in my personal experience, I recently had that happen, where my oncologist wanted me to go and do this test. And boy, from the minute he said, I want you to go do this, it didn't feel right to me, I don't know exactly why. And I didn't want to go into the details of what the test rating was, but it was just this feeling of I don't need that, you know, and I don't need to expose my body to what my body will be exposed to, to go through that. And it just was really deep in me. And yet, yet, knowing that I found myself feeling compelled, I have to do this, right, my doctor said, You've got to make this appointment. And I found myself making the call to set up the appointment. And as I was making the call, I was thinking, I don't want to do this. And I hung up the phone after scheduling the appointment. And I said to my husband, you know what, I just scheduled that. And I don't want to do it. Everything inside of me is saying don't do that right now. And it's not that it's some major harmful thing. You know, it's not like a million IV chemotherapy or something like that. It's just a diagnostic, but a diagnostic that would expose me to radiation. And it just didn't feel right and necessary. And so I called back and I canceled that appointment. And I felt really good about it. But it was just interesting to see this deep, deep seated beliefs that we have, for me, you know, I'm 59 years old. So in my generation, we were raised to have a tremendous respect for authority. And I don't think that's uncommon out there. And I think especially in the medical field, that we put a lot of trust and belief into our physicians, and there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, I want everybody to have a physician that they can trust. But you know, you better than anyone else, you are the expert on you. So as we go through life, not just a medical treatment, but through life, can we learn to trust ourselves, when our instincts say, This isn't right? This isn't the right thing for you right now? Do we listen? Or do we talk ourselves out of it? When it comes to careers, when it comes to businesses, when it comes to relationships? When it comes to travel, when it comes to medical decisions, when it comes to food, all of it? Do we learn to listen and trust ourselves? Why do we resist trusting ourselves so much. And it's so important for us to be able to make informed decisions, right to look outside of us make informed decisions, but then trust ourselves, to look inside for answers, and trust ourselves and have our own back. So often, when I'm coaching people, I'll hear them be and just this tremendous amount of fear in this frozen space and saying, but what if I'm wrong. And the bottom line is you won't know you're wrong until you're wrong. Right? We have to trust ourselves. And we have to know that sometimes we may make a wrong decision. But I think that more often than not, if you really sit with yourself, and you've done the work to get to know yourself, and inside you everything is screaming, don't do that. I think that's really going to be the wrong decision. You know, that's it's been my experience that when I look back on those times, and decisions made from that place, that I often look back and say, Wow, I'm so glad I did it that way. I knew it. And when I go against that, when I don't allow myself to trust myself when I go with a condition belief that I'm supposed to trust someone else more than me, again, without fail, I look back and say I knew it. I knew that wasn't right for me, and I did it anyway. And I think that learning to recognize what that feels like in your body. So for me for the example I shared with you when I when I heard I want you to go do this. Gosh, there was just a tightening in my gut. There was just almost like a nausea like, This isn't good. This feels like that made me feel kind of sick. And when I was on that phone call making that appointment, same feeling. I noticed my body feels constricted and a little bit on the edge of non zoom. I don't know what that is. But I know it's saying to me, this doesn't feel right. And so I made a decision to do it didn't feel right. And we have to really start learning what does that feel like? How does my body give me signals? I love the book by Gabor monta when the body says no. And I think it's so important that we learn to listen to our bodies, because our bodies will say no in subtle ways, like the ones I just shared with you. And when we don't listen, they'll say no, and louder, and louder and louder ways. And sometimes those ways don't end well for us. So learning to really trust ourselves to listen, when it comes to big decisions in life, when it comes to that feeling in your heart, or your gut, or wherever in your throat. It says, this needs to be said, this needs to be heard. This is something I need to pursue, that we allow ourselves to believe in ourselves and trust ourselves, instead of comparing what's coming from inside of us a need that's coming from inside of us to a belief that's out there in society that says no, that's not the right way to do it. You should do it a different way. And we've got to learn to have our own backs in that way that we learn to trust and believe and love ourselves. And even if we find that we listen to ourselves, we made a decision, we took a risk, we made a change, we did something and it didn't end maybe the way we wanted it to that we have our own back, that we don't beat ourselves up for it, that we say I made the best decision I could with the information I had, and with the way that I felt about it, and be okay with that trust and love ourselves enough to be okay with it. And you know, people say, well, it could have gone differently if I had gone a different way. Well, we don't know that though. Because he didn't go that way. We go the way that we feel is right for us in our hearts. We trust ourselves in this life. And then we see what happens. And we adjust along the way we make adjustments as we go. When I think now about the things that I have done and the ways that I have adjusted my life just since 2020. When I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, there have been a lot of adjustments. There have been a lot of decisions, both lifestyle decisions, things that I have decided to do, and treatment decisions. And maybe in that moment, when I was diagnosed, I thought this is the way things are going to look. But then as I move forward and took steps towards them, had to go a little bit this way and a little bit that way. And little by little learn what was working best for me instead of holding myself to that idea that I had in the beginning that that's the way it should look. Right? We've got to let go of the shoulds. And the it's supposed to go this way, and allow ourselves to be in the moment trusting ourselves in the flow of life going you know what, yesterday, I thought that that thing might have been right for me. But today yeah, that's not right for me. And I don't think we have to live on five and 10 and 20 year models of what life should be I think it's cool to have those kind of goals and to say in five years from now, here's where I'd like to be in 10 years from now, here's where I'd like to be. But let's see, and let meat that's not written in stone. Let me adjust that as I go along. And I think that when we're endeavoring to create our very best life, to live our very best life, that that has to mean taking the best care of ourselves that we possibly can, loving ourselves like, we would love the person who is close to us in our life loving herself as the princess as the Queen as the way we deserve right fully and wholly, we have got to extend that love to ourselves, that belief in ourselves, so that others love us in that way that we deserve. And that means with whole heart without judgment and with trust, even when there's doubt, because remember, we never know anything 100% We can't I mean, I don't I guess maybe if we went to like, what is the Long Island Medium or something who would feel more confident, but I'm not a medium. So we do the best we can we trust ourselves. And if there's that little niggling doubt, we say, well, yeah, of course, there's going to be doubt because I don't know with 100% certainty in the future. But do I trust and love myself enough to say it's normal to have doubt? But boy, I feel good about this decision. And I'm gonna have my back no matter what happens. I'm going to trust myself. I believe in my ability to start this business to start this protocol to change the way that I'm feeding myself to change the doctor because this one doesn't feel good to me. It's okay to have a little bit of reservations when we make big important decisions in our life, as long as we are committed to trusting ourselves to having our own back because if we don't, if we're not committed And what we do is we hang on to that doubt. And then every step of the way when something doesn't go exactly as planned, which it never will, because that's just not how life works, then we go back to the doubt and clinging to the doubt. And that's the position where we can go back to trusting ourselves, do we choose to trust and put our energy and our beliefs and our intention and our time into trust? Or do we put it into doubt, we get to choose every step of the way we get to choose. And I say, choose trust, but bring doubt along with you. Because it's okay. And it's actually good. We wouldn't be making changes throughout life, we wouldn't say, I'm going to go with this treatment plan. And you know what, I'm going to switch it up a little bit over here if we didn't feel some kind of doubt. And if we didn't allow our doubt, to be valid, and to be important, but behind it, when we look at it, when we feel the doubt when we examine the doubt, if we trust ourselves, then we love ourselves, we hold our own hand. I sound like a Miley Cyrus on a song right now. And we move forward. And we keep moving forward. And we keep moving forward with as much trust and belief in ourself as we have every step of the way to build the best life, the life we want to become the person we are inside. You know, becoming us doesn't mean like recreating this whole new person, it means casting off all of the things that suppressed you throughout your life, and allowing you to be the beautiful person you are allowing your beautiful voice to be heard. Allowing yourself to pursue your own passions, doesn't mean make something new, make it up be be this person you've never heard of, but allow what is already in you to wake up and to be seen, and to not be suppressed by other people's thoughts and ideas that we've adopted to fit into some mold. So I guess if I had to start off with one thing, that's going to be it, it's going to be learn to trust and love yourself. Put a lot of energy into that. Know that you know yourself better than anyone else. Know that at the end of the day, this is your life, and you're the one that's accountable for it. You're the one that gets to make the choices. You're the one that gets to celebrate the wins. You're the one that gets to suffer the consequences. And although some of those consequences may be difficult, at the end of the day, if you love yourself, you won't be wallowing in judgment, self pity, resentment, regret, but you'll just be patting yourself on the back and saying I'm doing the best I can and I'm figuring it out along the way. All right, life lesson from cancer diagnosis number one. And I'll be back next week with another life lesson from 12 years of surviving cancer and I hope that you'll join me for that one as well. Until then have some faith in yourself and be good to yourself. Take care.