5 Lessons I Learned from having Breast Cancer

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Guest blog post from the Sunshine Survivor:  Annie Mattil Coyne

Annie with daughter Kelsey during Chemotherapy Treatments

One-It is what it is.
Whether the Doctor tells you that you have 6 months to live or they tell you that with surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, you have a chance to survive. It is ultimately your choice how you deal with it. You can make it the most miserable time of your life or you can embrace the awareness of how precious life really is. I personally chose the high road. My statistics were not great with stage 3 breast cancer. I had a nine month old daughter and I made the decision to fight this in the most positive way I could. I took time for me, to learn how my body dealt with stress, and worked really hard to teach my body and mind to connect in a positive way. Two mastectomies, chemotherapy,radiation, and lots of inner therapy work, fourteen years later I am cancer free today. Hard work pays off.

Two- People have different reactions to illness.
Some of the most loving friends I have, were not really present during my treatments. While others were there with me through it all. I learned that for some people it is to painful for them to see someone they care about struggling through illness. It is not because they do not care, I think sometimes they distance themselves to protect themselves in case something happens, the pain won’t be so bad. They really don’t know what to do. Just being there for the person is what you need to do…just let them know you are there.

Three-When you are a survivor, from anything, your life is never the same again.
It changes you as a person. There are people who will go back to their old life and act like nothing happened…but it is always there. I felt renewed, reborn, blessed. I felt like I was here for a purpose. I found that purpose opening my own hair salon and specializing in selling wigs to cancer patients. I opened my salon one year to the date of my diagnosis. I meet people in their first stages of their journey.I encourage them to be positive and to stay strong and to take charge of their illness. I share my story. No matter how bad your situation, I believe everyone has a purpose. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re purpose. I have a good friend who has been chasing hers, and recently I told her that she has written a book of her life experiences, she has a talk blog radio station connecting great people, I believe she is present in her purpose.She just didn’t know it.

Four- Society is so hung up on body image.
I had reconstruction with my mastectomies, but I never added anything to the breast tissue, so I just have scars. I never realized how much our society focuses on breast until you don’t have them. I have had moments where I have really felt the loss. I tried to explain to my husband when we were on vacation and the resort allowed women to go topless that I felt like it was like bringing someone without legs to a road race. I know that sounds shallow but I really felt the emotional pain. A body part is a body part. I do not dwell on it and I admire women that choose no reconstruction at all.

Five- Society does not like to talk about death.
Let’s face it, we are all going to die sometime. But none one wants to mention it. I have lost a few friends from cancer and when they found out that there was not much more the medical world could do, they wanted to talk about it. A few of them came to me. They said they could not discuss it with their families because they didn’t want to talk about it saying “you will be fine” when in reality they weren’t going to be fine. Or they thought they were giving up. One of my friends was concerned about his funeral…where to have it..what would the music be and so on. To this day I think he had the nicest funeral I have ever been to. He planned the whole thing out. Dedicated songs to certain people, Invited people to share stories..a real celebration of his life. Sometimes just having everything planned also takes a lot of stress off of the family. We as a society should really be able to handle this much better. After all we are always taught we are going to a better place..right?

Annie Mattil Coyne

Well that’s a few of my thoughts.
I am working on a book..from diagnosis through treatment.
The book is called Sunshine Survivor.
The name of my salon is Positive Energy Salon & Boutique in
Exeter, New Hampshire.
I do believe cancer has led me to my calling!

Annie

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