How I Took My Life Back From Anxiety After Cancer

Photo Cred: Engin Akyurt (@enginakyurt on IG)

Five years ago, we started a family tradition. Every year, we have either gone on an end of summer extravaganza of excitement, rollercoasters, crazy food, road trips and beaches or we have rented a cottage for a week up north. Not even cancer could take that away from us.

2020 was the second year we rented a cottage up north. We thought long and hard about what was best for our family considering the global pandemic. First was The Kawarthas which was exciting and packed with people, and this year was beloved Parry Sound, Ontario – a place I spent time as a small child and still have fond memories of, and was remote, quiet and not largely populated. This year gave me the opportunity to reflect on all that has happened and all that has changed since our last northward adventure.

Seeing an anxiety post pop up on my Facebook feed during an electronics check in while we were away was a rude reminder of what life uses to be like for me – before cancer. For a moment, I could actually feel it again; the fear, the worry, the anxiousness and frustration. I allowed the emotions to visit me because it’s healthy to remember from where and how far you’ve come. Not only to pat myself on the back for my progress but also as continued motivation.

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I only stayed there for a very short while; a few minutes at best. It’s not healthy to stay there any longer. It’s in the past and serves no great purpose. Instead, I began thinking about what it took to break the anxiety. Not only learning the lessons of how to be healthier mentally but also to begin putting those lessons into practice.

One of the things I promised myself after I got sick and I was ‘in the clear’ was that I would never let fear rule my life again. I may feel it, but I may not allow it to dictate my life. So I set out to do things that scared me. Things that I would have told myself, ‘maybe next time’ before.

But here’s the thing about next times, I learned very well that there may never be a next time. The time is now.

So prepping for, and on that family vacation two years ago, I dyed my hair pink because I like pink hair and I no longer allow the opinions of others to dictate my choices. And on the night that the live band was playing and my girls were so looking forward to dancing, but when we got there and no one was dancing, I asked them, ‘How will you feel if you don’t dance tonight?’ and they replied, ‘sad’, that simply would not do. So I dragged them up to dance with me anyway. Even though they were scared and embarrassed. Just us…and next thing we knew the whole place was out of their seats carrying on like it was an Irish pub on a Friday night and they were playing ‘Home For A Rest’ by Spirit of the West. And no I don’t have pictures of it because I was there, in that moment with them, experiencing it because that moment in time was the only moment in time that mattered then. And because I hold myself to the same standard, I too looked for opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone. On the second last day we were there, when the end of the trip was drawing near and my chances to challenge myself started to run thin, I decided to do one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done in my life. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done (on purpose) in my life. I’m positive – I would even bet a years salary on it – that even if I hadn’t just finished IV chemotherapy only four months earlier, it still would have been just as hard to do….I tried waterskiing.

It took me two days and seven attempts but I friggin did it. And if I can get up on waterskis 4 months out of chemo, and my kids can start a dance party with the most anti-social group of humans that ever sat in front of a live band, we can do any damn thing we put our minds to…and so can you.

That is not a seagull cawing, it’s the sound of victory!

Until next time, take good care.

Published by Michelle Burleigh

Michelle is a highly driven, ambitious woman who gratefully possesses a love of learning and a passion for personal growth which support her ongoing healing and career growth. As a mother of two incredible young girls, a wife, and a patient advocate, and most recently, an author, she has not allowed her December 2017 diagnosis of Acute Leukemia stop her from making and achieving goals. She felt compelled to start to help people and their loved ones feel more empowered and informed throughout their own healing journey.

4 thoughts on “How I Took My Life Back From Anxiety After Cancer

  1. I still get anxious on follow-up tests even after 39-months of being NED. I love your message that we shouldn’t allow fear to dictate our lives, even though we may still feel scared. Well done on the waterskis! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

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