What My Upcoming 5 Year Cancer Free Mark Means To Me- Learning To Find “Purpose” And A More Balanced Life.
In a couple weeks, I will have reached my five year breast cancer free day. Like most breast cancer survivors, I can tell you the last date of my chemotherapy appointment as easily as I can tell you my birthday. I can also tell you what I was doing when I received the call from my physician telling me my lump was cancerous.
The five year cancer free day at one time meant that my chances of cancer returning was no longer likely. My maternal aunt’s breast cancer returned within 12 years, and she eventually died from this disease. I know it is different for every patient, but the five year mark doesn’t necessarily mean my cancer will never return.
I am not planning to take any luxurious vacations at my five year mark ( and would not anyway due to the pandemic) but will write thank you letters to those who supported me during those darkest days in my life and will probably take loved ones to a nice socially distanced dinner outdoors somewhere.
What I will celebrate, however, is the changes having breast cancer forced me to make in my life. A couple years after my last treatment, I decided to live a more balanced life and left my 80 hour a week corporate role in the insurance industry, and started looking for a job with a not for profit organization that focused on helping children. The now uncertainty of my future altered my thought process on my priorities including my career, and I felt a strong desire to do something to help the less fortunate
I completely changed my resume and highlighted volunteer roles I performed during my corporate career. Within a matter of weeks, I was hired to work in a flexible role as a licensed specialist for an organization that helped to license foster families, and also help them navigate the complex child welfare system.
And within a couple years of working in this role, I decided to open up a 501(c) (3) not for profit, “Kristi’s Klimbers” which will provide financial support and recovery care items for cancer patients. Many of my friends and family members are either officers or Board members and am thrilled this is something we are all able to do together. The organization should be up and running in a few weeks as am waiting for the IRS to officially grant our organization a tax exempt status.
I am a big hiker and also have more time to hike the numerous wonderful trails in Arizona. I have made a list of waterfall hikes I plan to complete this year, and I look forward to hosting fundraising hiking events throughout the southwest when the Pandemic is over.
I am much happier now and feel much more fulfilled spending my days helping those in need. After helping insurance companies make money for over 35 years, I finally feel like I am finally doing something “with purpose”.
If my cancer does return, I will have no regrets as I am thankful for the life lessons having cancer has taught me including having a greater sense of support and compassion for others, and a greater appreciation for the simple things in life.