5 Lessons on Living Life Fully from a Breast Cancer Survivor

I Survived

“We all have two lives. The second one begins when we realize we only have one.” ~Confucius

When I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in September 2014 I tried to spin this life curveball on its ugly head and find some lessons from this journey.

That’s how I dealt with the blow.

The truth is, I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I never wanted to be a victim.

I wanted to be a survivor from day dot.

Throughout this process I learned five powerful lessons that I’d like to share with you so that you can live life more fully—without a cancer diagnosis.

The reality: Cancer changed my appearance.

The treatment for cancer took away my hair, my eyebrows and eyelashes, and my breasts. All the lovely feminine assets I had were tampered with or lost temporarily.

The lesson: Love goes beyond looks.

The people who matter love me no matter how I look. One day when I was heading toward the end of my chemotherapy, my five-year-old boy found a picture of me with all my hair and eyebrows and said, “We love you however you look, Mummy.” That makes me feel blessed beyond belief.

You’re likely blessed in the same way, and that’s something worth acknowledging and celebrating.

The reality: Chemotherapy is horrible.

It saves our lives but the process is yuck. I experienced all sorts of symptoms that were pretty uncomfortable. I almost got used to them as time passed by, yet I had to keep going back for more. For five months.

The lesson: Don’t take health and energy for granted.

To get up in the morning and feel healthy, comfortable, and full of energy is a beautiful thing. To feel normal is extraordinary. I will never take my health for granted again. I will never again consider normal days, when nothing exciting happens, mundane or time to kill a chore.

Each morning when you wake up, even if that day seems ordinary, take a moment to appreciate the extraordinary gifts of your health and vitality.

The reality: Life is short.

When I was diagnosed with cancer there was a short amount of time while waiting for the test results when there was a possibility my life would come to an end a lot quicker than I thought. My mortality smacked me in the face.

The lesson: Life is precious.

Somehow it’s taboo, and I was a little in denial that my life is short and a tremendous gift. Awareness of my mortality gave me a big kick up the bum to live my life fully.

Every day is a gift.

The reality: I experienced fear and anxiety like never before.

As I went through the cancer journey, my mind could easily have been consumed with worry about what the future holds and thoughts about the past—Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I could potentially be filled with a lot of fear and anxiety.

The lesson: Love always conquers fear.

I had never experienced such a feeling of presence. I felt so utterly aware of what matters and how much I have to be grateful for.

When something like this happens all the petty stuff that fills our lives and relationships falls away, and all that is left is love.

I have never felt fear in the same way that I have in the past few weeks, but the love I have received from friends and family has stepped up to meet me, and my fear has dissolved instantly.

Whenever fear comes to meet you in life, try to flip it around and find love. Consider all that you love and everyone who loves you. Like me, you may find fear dissipates immediately.

The reality: I had to create a lot of change in my life.

As a mother of two small kids, I am so used to putting myself last and forgetting to look after my needs.

After my diagnosis, I took myself on a journey of healing, immersed myself in creative projects, meditation, kinesiology, sound healing, distant healings, chakra cleansing, Ayurvedic lifestyle changes and supplements, journaling, and getting back to basics with my relationship with food. 

The lesson: Everything starts with you.

I really made myself a priority—because I had to. I had to give myself love. I had to nurture myself. In doing so, I realized how important it is. For me and for everyone around me. The ripple effect it has had on my kids, my family, and friends has been profound.

Everything starts with your relationship with yourself. Accept, love, and be kind to yourself always.

In some bizarre ways I feel almost grateful to have been through this experience. Somehow it has shown me to step past fear and be invincible. So I hope I can share this with you, in some way, and give you an element of this perspective.

Your life is a miracle.

Every birthday is a blessing and every moment is fleeting.

I survived image via Shutterstock

About Clare Greig

Clare Greig is a certified business and creativity coach, musician, and breast cancer thriver! Clare supports clients to access their own daily creativity, innovative nature, inspiration, and clarity so they find the best way to use their gifts and business to make a difference in the world. Find out more at, you can also download her free guide “Big Ideas On Tap.”

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