Cancer & 8 ways to live your life to the fullest

new cancer post Cancer. It has come up multiple times in different aspects of my life lately, and I know it might be a strange topic to write about, but I’m going to.

In the past month, five different things have happened involving cancer:

  • I helped out with a Breast Cancer survivor performance with the Diamond Dancers.
  • I discovered Zach Sobiech’s story and song “Clouds” on YouTube.
  • A family member was diagnosed for a third time.
  • I participated in a Memorial Spin Ride for my spin instructor whose life was quickly taken in June from a rare form of lung cancer.
  • The Diamond Dancers hosted a dance competition, The Power of Purple, in which all proceeds, almost $12,000, were donated to the Pancreatic Cancer Network (just took place yesterday).

All these interactions and experiences got me thinking. It’s amazing how everyone we know has been affected by cancer in some way or another. It’s everywhere and it’s scary, but there’s a lot of good that can come from it too. I’ve noticed that those with cancer or those who have experienced it usually tend to lead a different kind of life. They see the big picture and what really matters. But it shouldn’t take getting cancer to live like this.  So I’ve created a list, which I’ll get to in a moment, of things I think everyone should try to do to live their life to the fullest, appreciate the good around them, and focus on what truly matters. A specific quote from the Zach Sobiech video really caught my attention, “It's not all about the grades you get or how cool you are in high school, It's about doing what makes you happy."

It is sooo true. In 50 years from now I’m not going to look back on my life and think “I really wish I would have gotten an A on that assignment rather than a B” or “I wish I would have tried harder to fit in with the ‘cool’ people in high school.” No way!! That’s all so irrelevant to the big picture. In fact, I’m probably going to think something along the lines of “I wish I would have spent more time with friends and family, read more inspiring books, gone on more runs and walks outside when I was able to, enjoyed a talk with a stranger, done more of what makes ME happy.”

Here’s what I’ve been focusing on lately (and I think you should too) so that I don’t have these kind of regrets later in life:

1. Use your manners (and smile when you do): Yes I sound like a mom, but manners are so important! The best way I can put it is, while working in retail I would tell pretty much every customer to “have a great day” as they were leaving. Only a few would say it back and even fewer would say it sincerely. Those who did sincerely wish me a good day made my shift easier. I felt like “Wow! Someone actually cares if I enjoy the rest of this day.” Now maybe it’s not entirely true that they actually cared, but it still made me think about how I was going to spend the rest of that day enjoying it and thinking about my blessings.

2. Never take good health for granted: This goes without explanation yet it is so often forgotten. No, we cannot entirely prevent cancer/illnesses with our lifestyle, but good choices certainly can help. Nourish your body with foods that are natural and good for you. Exercise because A, it will get your endorphins going which leads to HAPPINESS and B, because you only have one body so you should take care of it! Take a second each day to be thankful for all you are able to do because of your health, even if it's something just as simple as walking :)

3. Don’t stress: Easier said than done right? Seriously though, we spend too much time stressing about things that are not important. I think that when we become stressed, we need to take a step back and think “how important is this really??” If the house is a little messy, laundry needs to be done, you burnt dinner, or you’re having a bad hair day...seriously think about all of life, all of the other problems you could be having and realize how good you’ve got it! My old dance teacher always used to say “if you put everyone’s problems in a hat and had to pick one, you would want to pick your own. God gave you that specific problem because He knows that you’re the one that can make it through it.”

4. Only do things that you actually want to do: That might sound stupid, of course we all have things that we HAVE to do no matter how much we don’t want to. I’m talking more about extracurricular things. If a friend wants you to go out, but you’d really just rather have a night in with your roommate/significant other then be honest and stay in! A better way to explain this is with a quote from my high school history teacher (I know I’m using a lot of quotes, but when people say something that makes sense to me it just sticks and I never forget it!). He said, “If I ever wake up and hate my job, if it ever begins to make me unhappy, if I ever don’t feel passionate about teaching high schoolers anymore, I’m going to quit. Right then and there because you can’t waste your life doing something that doesn’t make you happy.” Amen to that!

5. Don’t judge others: This one is super important and sadly I still need to work on this quite a bit. The thing is, everyone has their own style, their own idea of success, their own opinion, and that’s what makes the world so cool! It makes me sad when people look at someone and immediately make a judgement about them (not saying I haven’t), but something to keep in mind is that you NEVER know what that person is going through at that very moment. They may have suffered a job loss and can’t afford nice clothes, they may have a learning disorder so they chose to take a different route after high school (other than college), or they may have some kind of illness. But it doesn’t matter, because they are a human just like you deserve to be treated kindly :)

6. Live in the present: I also need to work on this one. I’m obsessed with planning for the future and I’m always thinking ahead. With such easy access to social media and music and TV shows it’s so easy to forget about our surroundings. The best time for me to be in the “now” is while driving. I’ll turn off the radio and pay attention to all the beauty around me. Find what works for you...a run outside, yoga, turning off electronics for awhile. Whatever it is, do it and you’ll be happy that you did.

7. Empathize: This goes along with judging but it’s a little different. Whenever I get mad or frustrated with someone, I take a few deep breaths and put myself in their shoes. After I think about how they might be viewing the situation or why they are acting the way they are, I suddenly don’t feel so upset.

8. If you’re thinking something nice about someone, tell them: I’m kind of weird when it comes to this, but I will literally tell a perfect stranger on the street “I really love your shoes!” if I really do love the shoes. A little compliment goes a long way and in my opinion there’s no reason to hold back. If you have someone in your life who you really look up to or a friend that you haven’t said “I love you” to in a while. Tell them. Do it right now! Because you never know when it could be too late and let’s be honest everyone likes hearing something nice!

I hope you’ll take these tips with you today (and everyday), because life is too short to be anything but HAPPY ♥

~Katelyn~

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