Destiny LaNeè Freeman
Location: Arizona, USA
Diagnosis: Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Stage 3)
There's a scar on my neck that will forever symbolize one of the most difficult and enlightening years of my life.
It all began when I met with a general practitioner to discuss a swollen lymph node. I was tested for everything from a Vitamin D deficiency to HIV. When the results all came back 'normal', my doctor sent me off to surgery. My swollen lymph node was removed, my scar began to form, and I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. I later learned I was not Stage 1 but instead Stage 3.
There were nights I felt as though I was handed a death sentence and there were days I thought my anxiety would kill me before cancer could.
I've always been a perfectionist who needs to be in total control. This was the first time in my life that I could do absolutely nothing to create the outcome that I wanted so desperately.
Each passing day was a test of my ability to relinquish control, confront what may come, and approach it all with a joyful mindset.
To be clear, I had my moments of desperation, anger, and depression but I learned to let those feelings pass. I learned that in a time of uncertainty, the only certain thing was the way I chose to react to my circumstances. I learned that I could live life miserably or I could make a choice to cram as much joy into my life as possible.
Once you're diagnosed with cancer, you recognize how fleeting life is and how imperative it is that you value it. You learn that it's possible to be fond of imperfections and that there's light to be found in even the darkest of places.
This year, I found an unending amount of love, community, and support. I discovered the kindness of absolute strangers who live halfway around the world. (I'm looking at you, Ellen!) I've deepened my empathy. I've grown to love a simpler life. I've allowed myself to do what's fun, not just what will enhance my resume. I've set a goal that is simply to be and be happy! Before this year, I didn't even know that was an option.
I could write for days but, what I want you to know is this: Cancer sucks. Cancer is hard. You will be tested but you are strong. You didn't choose this. You can't control what happens to you after you are diagnosed. However, you can choose how you show up to and what you take away from your battle with cancer.
I refuse to be grateful for what happened to me, but I'm grateful for what cancer taught me.
One piece of advice:
If you're newly diagnosed, know that you are loved. Brace yourself for overwhelming kindness and generosity. Find your community and lean on the people in it! Do not feel guilty for taking time and space to heal. No matter how impossible the battle ahead seems, take it one deep breath at a time. You've got this! We've got this!
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Brave Collective. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information.