Fuller Life Achieved in 2012: A Young Adult Cancer Survivor’s Top 10 Motivators

The holiday season is a time most of us reflect on the past year and plan forward for the new, right? For me — a cancer survivor in my mid-20’s — this time of year is one of accounting for the things that help me remain strong and positive in my continued journey of healthy survivorship. As a busy PhD student at Rice University, I may have a life that’s structured differently than yours; but, I don’t think my goals as a young adult cancer survivor are dissimilar to other survivors like me. I want to live a healthy and full life and I bet you do, too.

So, here’s what excited and motivated me in 2012 toward an empowered life beyond cancer:

    1. 1. Meeting a fitness goal – I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with exercising, but this fall, I signed up for a 5k, requiring me to run regularly for several months before the race. Successfully running the 5k in a decent time was one of the highlights of my year. It provided me a high level of self-fulfillment that has inspired me to stay physically active beyond the race.

2. Increasing confidence in doing job – Over the past year, I’ve started to make real progress on my dissertation. Although I still have far to go in my graduate school journey, I’ve developed more confidence in both my knowledge and abilities as a scholar. That in turn has bumped up my self-esteem. While confidence may not guarantee success, higher self-esteem can make career more enjoyable and increase happiness.

3. Volunteering – As a CancerForward volunteer, I get a chance to take a break from my normal routine and to help others. I’ve met some wonderful people and learned a lot. Volunteering is such a rewarding experience for me. I often feel as though I’m receiving as much as I’m giving.

4. Making new friendships – Some of my good friends graduated this year and moved away. For me, this created both a need and opportunity to develop some new friendships. While I still maintain my longstanding friendships, my new friendships challenge me to think in different ways and try new things.

5. Exploring the community – It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores, etc. However, it’s important to explore your community, especially if you live in a large city as diverse as Houston. In 2012, I’ve spent more time “exploring” and have discovered some new places and things I love. It’s good to get off the beaten path and explore!

6. Taking a real vacation – For the first time in several years, I took a vacation that didn’t involve a conference or returning home to Kansas! It was wonderful to clear my head by taking a complete break from work and spend time traveling, which I love. Yes, it can be hard to find time to take off from work and other responsibilities; but, taking a vacation – even a staycation – is important for rejuvenation and keeping a positive outlook.

7. Enjoying nature – Whether it’s sitting outside on campus or walking the dog, I try to spend time outdoors when the weather is nice. Soaking up some sun (with sunscreen, of course) helps my mental health; and, long walks with my dog help me maintain my fitness goals.

8. Engaging in positive conversations – As a political science graduate student, I find election years both exciting and wearying. Sometimes, political discourse can be deafening. This year, I found it key to limit myself to positive dialogues with others as much as possible, especially online. This is a lesson I will be taking into 2013, because it has helped diminish negativity in my life.

9. Indulging oneself sometimes – It’s good to occasionally indulge ourselves. Read some fiction. Eat a piece of chocolate. Sleep in. Moderation is key, but taking some time to enjoy life makes the rest of our responsibilities much more manageable.

10. Being thankful – As cancer survivors, many of us have had tough journeys throughout our lives which can make it difficult to remain positive going into the future. This year, I often found myself stopping and realizing how thankful I am for everything I have – especially my health. And I plan to do the same next year.

This time next year, it will be interesting to see what I found to be inspirational in 2013. Living in the moment, today I’m satisfied just to raise a toast to a healthy and happy 2013. To you…a toast for all the best this holiday season and a healthy and happy new year ahead.

Category: Cancer

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