We are happy to continue our Extraordinary humans series. Here is Colleen and this is her story.
My name is Colleen Bruening and I am a cancer survivor. Many people think that surviving = beating = being cured. But even if you are cured, there is always the risk of recurrence. The reality is that there are no guarantees, no promises, you just never know. It is just the way life is. I have been living with cancer for 10 years. I have never been cancer free, and probably never will be. Although I will never give up hope. So how do you live a happy, full life, get the most out of your days, when all the while you feel like there is a sword hanging by a thread over your head?
You have to find trust in the plan. I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old. I was a senior in college and my mortality was the last thing on my mind. It was a really hard, eye opening experience for me and my family. But do you know what happened? Life went on. I graduated from college 5 months after my diagnoses. I got married 3.5 years later and have 3 beautiful children. My life has been graced with so many blessings. If I had given up hope, I would not have been open to all of the good that God had in store for me. I would have closed my eyes and turned by back on my dreams. DO NOT BE DERAILED!!! Disappointment is a part of life. But I am so confident now that good things can come out of bad situations. There are bound to be peaks and valleys. Don’t set yourself up with the expectation that life will be without hard times, just have faith that you will get through them if you keep your head up, stay positive, and find trust in the plan. Be ready for the next great thing coming in your life, it is on its way! Don’t miss it. My mantra more recently has been “God, I trust in you.” Say this to yourself when you get overwhelmed. I guarantee, even if you don’t believe the words at first, soon you will, and it will give you peace.
Admit that you don’t have complete control, while focusing on what you can. 2 years ago, I went to get a second opinion, and found out that I had cancer positive lymph nodes and small cancer spots in my lungs. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me. How could all this be going on in my body without me having any idea??? I felt helpless, and it was probably one of the darkest times of my life. It has been a process, but since I have found yoga, meditation, juicing and so many other helpful health tools. And focusing on a new health routine has made me feel empowered. Yet, I know that, no matter how many green juices I drink, or sweaty yoga sessions I do, if I don’t “beat” cancer it is not because I am not trying. Deepak Chopra’s meditation taught me a new angle to my situation. He suggested that I have to love my cancer to heal my cancer. After all, my cancer is a part of me. The idea of winning a “fight” against cancer suggests that I have control over my team winning, and honestly that is way too much pressure. So I stopped fighting. Anxiety has absolutely been my biggest hurdle. I have no physical symptoms from my cancer, but my mind can manifest plenty of them. You have to let go to get your mind working for you. It will have a real impact on your health. If my mind can make me literally feel sick, imagine what my positive mind can do in the opposite direction. Stay committed to shutting down problematic thinking. Take everything one day at a time. And don’t get discouraged by your limitations, nobody is perfect. You are bound to have bouts of anxiety, you are allowed to cry. But try hard to recognize what is causing your feelings, get them out and move on. Control your mind.
Do the most with what you have. I have so much to live for. I am surrounded by the support of wonderful family and friends. Be motivated by the positives in your life, keep moving and have awesome days. Cancer is not the coolest thing about me, so I am not going to make it the biggest or most dominant part of my life. I am committed to feeling good until I don’t feel good. The facts are that I have cancer, but the truth is that I feel well and I am generally healthy, so let’s run with that! Don’t let your idea of what your life is supposed to be, dictate your happiness. Because it is true, life is what happens while you are busy planning. Learn to be flexible. More than anything I want for my children to live happy lives. I need to be a good example for them, that their lives are what they make it, and to not let loss or disappointment keep them from getting to exactly where they want to be or where they need to be. I want for them to feel that they can do anything. And for me doing anything may not be curing myself of cancer, the bigger feat in my mind is showing that you can truly live with anything. Cancer is not the end!
“A bend in the road, is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn.” –Helen Keller
Hope On. Journey On.