How can life change for the better with a cancer diagnosis? There are silver linings to everything, including cancer.

How can life change for the better with a cancer diagnosis? There are silver linings to everything, including cancer.

Guest post by Dr. Yi-wen Huang

The stage IV metastatic breast cancer diagnosis in July 2021 changed my life, my perspective on life and how I live. When you are in despair, you try your hardest to find hope and stay positive. Not because others tell you to. But because you realize how precious life is and how you’d like to enjoy it for a bit longer.

The most important thing I learned is to live in the moment. We have no control and no idea how much more time we have in this world. You don’t know if you will have an accident next minute. You don’t know if you will lose someone you love to an unexpected event. The only thing we really know is that we are LIVING right now, not dying. So let’s enjoy it to the fullest. After my diagnosis, every time I see some beautiful clouds, flowers, living creatures, or crazy cars, I take a photo and smile. I breathe more wholeheartedly. You never know if there is tomorrow, or if you have the ability to do the same things you are doing now. So take every precious living moment and enjoy it.

I realized how little I paid attention to my own health before the diagnosis. I thought that’s what a mom ought to do, focus on the kids, the family, not yourself. I was wrong. I have learned that focusing on my own health is the best gift I can give to those that I love. Invest in your own health. Take responsibility of your lifestyle and make sensible choices. The good choices mean a lot to your body and to those you love.

Having hope and staying positive are key to enjoying life to the fullest. Don’t see yourself as a data point. Modern medicine advances quickly. Maybe the drug that works for you is just around the corner.

Accept help. Support others in return. Connect with people. Engage in your community. The social web will keep your mood uplifted and you would want to live longer for all the cheers you are getting.

Have diverse interests and hobbies. This will allow you to enjoy life even more and in more ways. You may gradually lose some abilities you take for granted on your cancer journey. If you have lots of interests and hobbies, you can always enjoy a different activity. Sports, arts and crafts, music, reading, exercise, and cooking are all great activities and topics to help enrich your experience in this world. Your enthusiasm in diverse interests will motivate you to live longer because there is always something you enjoy that awaits you.

Don’t look back. Don’t regret. There’s no need to answer any questions. There’s no need to look forward much, either. Look right here and right now. Enjoy the moment.

With these new perspectives, I have had a decent two years dealing with cancer. Our family is closer than ever and happier together. I hope more people with cancer get to see the silver linings that come with the C-word. There’s no need to fear cancer or death. There are only needs to live, laugh and love in the moment!

About the author:
Dr. Yi-wen Huang is a stage IV HER2+ metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patient. Her diagnosis in July 2021 at age 43 turned her life up-side-down. She has kept a positive outlook despite setbacks on the cancer journey. Yi-wen has a PhD in Physical Chemistry from Harvard University, worked in environmental and biotech instrumentation companies in the Bay Area before the diagnosis. She enjoys her current "retirement" filled with parenting duties, family time, pottery, running and self care (including continuous treatments).
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