Cancer taught me how to live

Terminal illness has a way of awakening our greatest potential. When Cara was diagnosed with breast cancer the parts of life that had lay dormant began to bloom. She was reborn.

While studying to become a computer programming consultant Cara lost sight of everything else in her life–relationships, friendships, family–nothing mattered except getting that certification. “When you don’t lead a well balanced life, the parts that you ignore will come back to bite you, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Cara. “But I passed the exam. I was so excited—I was finally certified. I was going to have the career that I dreamed of.”

About a week later, Cara was home and having a lumpectomy and woke up in the recovery room to a crying surgeon telling her parents that the lump in her breast was malignant. “I went home and stayed there for the entire weekend and sobbed — just sobbed. I thought it was the end of the world.”

But when the doctors said, “We need you to have a biopsy,” Cara didn’t think about her recently passed exams, she thought, “I never took those tango lessons, I never read those books, I never did any of those things, and, I’m not going to have the opportunity to do that anymore–because I thought it was a death sentence.” She quickly learned that she had the ability within herself to turn the situation into something good if she would trust and be open to it.

“I had never known anyone before who’d had cancer, and I just thought that was the end of the world,” said Cara. “I decided I would make a list of all the things that I had never done, and during the recovery period between surgery and chemotherapies, I would do all those things.”

During her chemotherapy Cara went to live on her parent’s farm. She realized the impact your environment can have on every part of your life. It can inspire you, give you hope, and help you be more productive. But it can also fight you, become a source of stress, or take away your motivation.

“Because I had absorbed myself in my career, I had let my house go. I wasn’t decorating anymore. I didn’t even have a bedspread,” said Cara.

While recovering from chemo, Cara’s therapist gave her an assignment… to redecorate the bedroom. “I thought, ‘redecorate my bedroom?’ I don’t have time for that. But it was an experiment that changed my life.”

Cara discovered that “by going back and redoing that place—where I laid under the covers and sobbed for 72 hours, where there had been so much pain—by painting the walls, by redoing, taking down the wallpaper, I was healing the room. Somehow that healing of the room was healing me.”

This transformation got Cara thinking. She started a company called Spicy Spaces to share the joy of helping people see their environment with a fresh eye.

Among the many things on Cara’s list of things to do was catching up on all those books she had been meaning to read. Here are Cara’s 3 essential reads that helped make chemotherapy a bit easier:

1. Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel
2. Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simonton
3. Oswald Talked by Ray and Mary La Fontaine

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Cara’s Website

Think Pink!
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website lends a helping hand to women coping with chemotherapy-induced side effects and shows you how to get involved.

Check Yourself
The circle, the line, or the wedge? Health Central’s handy instructional video teaches you three ways to give your girls a thorough self-exam.

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