While you’re in the hospital for an extended amount of time, you meet a variety of different people. From nurses, to Dr.’s, to house keeping to room service (the people who bring you your meals). Every single person has a story and because I LOVE to talk I typically am able to have decently long conversations with most. Today, I met a women who brought me my dinner who will forever leave a lasting impression on me. We got to talking about why I’ve been here so long, what my prognosis was and the plan of attack to fix me right up. She was the sweetest woman who kept reassuring me I will be back to my normal life in no time. That’s when she told me her story. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) a few years back. She’s still able to work now but is in pain more often than not. She told me that eventually she will have impaired coordination preventing her from being able to live life “normally”. And that’s when she dropped the line, “sometimes I wish I was diagnosed with a cancer like yours so that they could fix me, ya know.” MY HEART LITERALLY DROPPED. I was left speechless for once in my life. Absolutely speechless. But she was right. She brought me down to reality. My diagnosis is CURABLE and the Dr.’s believe I will be okay once this fight is over. And I am SO BLESSED to have the opportunity to stand up and fight this disease because there are so many people out there who aren’t given the same opportunity.
With that said, this woman got me thinking. I spiraled thinking about everything in life, and I mean everything. I started going through pictures, videos and conversations throughout my social media and phone pre-Leukemia diagnosis. In doing so, I realized, just as any other 26-year-old, my priorities in life were a little skewed. Now don’t get me wrong, people call me “Mom Kayla,” for a reason. I am the type of person who tries to make sure everyone is making “good life decisions” and is doing the right thing. I have always been that way. However, since that morning in the ER when I received my life changing diagnosis I have already sensed a change in my entire being and outlook on life that I thought I’d share with you all who have been following along.
I think back to what I considered some of the more “stressful” times in my life before my Leukemia diagnosis. Or situations that I deemed to be of such great importance that, looking back now, are minor in the grand-scheme of life. Sitting in this hospital room for a month has given me a lot of time to think about the things that are most important in life. A lot of perspective has been shot my way very quickly and I thought I’d get vulnerable with you and share some of it with you. I thought God had already given me a massive shot of perspective right in the jugular when my mom was diagnosed with her Stage 4 Breast Cancer back in December 2018 but believe it or not, I have even more perspective now than I did at that time.
So try this activity with me. Name four things, right off the top of your head (no cheating – literally the first four things that come to mind) that are currently on your “What’s Important in Life” list as I call it. Write them down or take a mental note of them. No shame with this activity either – I’ll even share my pre and post cancer diagnosis lists to really give you a sense of how my perspective has changed. But in the meantime, what’s on your list? Do the things on your list include trying to save up for that house that may be a LITTLE out of budget? Or a car? Maybe you’ve really wanted to save up for that brand new car you’ve had your eyes on for a year or so. Or your dream job. Trying to get your ducks in a row so that you can become the CFO of that new start-up by the age of 35? Or here’s a good one – COVID. Are you stressing because you feel like your life is on hold with all the restrictions in place? Or MASKS. The infamous masks. Are you frustrated you have to wear masks out in public right now? I mean the make-up right? Comes right off in your mask. Such a pain.
All of those things WERE previously on my “What’s Important in Life” list prior to July 11, 2020. I had a plan. I wanted to start saving for a house, I bought a car that I really wanted that may have been a tad out of my budget because “eh, why not?” I had a set career path in mind that I was going to follow, check the boxes and make it to Partner in X amount of time. And COVID – what a pain in my booty. I haven’t had a chance to dance in a bar since St. Patricks Day and that is a long time for me to be out of my element. Oh and did I mention I spent a solid month stressing about the timing of when to book my next hair appointment so that it would look best for two weddings I was supposed to be going to this Fall? I’m not kidding. The date to book my hair appointment was on my “What’s Important in Life” list for a solid month. So don’t be shy about what is on your list. This activity will only work if you’re 100% honest with yourself.
But then Leukemia happened and everything changed for me. It’s pretty funny how they say Cancer changes a person. I didn’t truly understand the magnitude of this phrase until I was catapulted into this cancer diagnosis. I’m not even two months in on fighting this cancer and what matters to me has 100% changed because in the grand scheme of life, when all is said and done… what is actually important? When you look back on your life is the car you drove when you were 26 something you’re going to give a crap about? Is your net worth really going to matter? Probably not. You’re not buried with your money. Is that terrible hair cut you had for your 45th birthday party really going to matter? No shot.
My New “What’s Important in Life” List.
God – I am very blessed and my parents introduced God/religion to us the day we were born. As I was growing up I wouldn’t say I was “fully-in.” Meaning, we’d go to Church, I’d fight with my siblings, have to be separated from each other for fighting, get lectured on the way home and not listen to one thing that was taught that day in Church. BUT because they instilled the idea of God as we were growing up I had the outlet to really grow in my faith these past few years. I’d say I really reached out to have a relationship with God as life had become overwhelming complicated. I hear this is typically what happens. People find their faith in times in life when they can’t keep going on their own. During not just my mom’s most recent cancer diagnosis but my personal cancer diagnosis I have relied on God more than I ever have in my entire life. When I’m scared. He provides me comfort. I remind myself he has me and is going to stand by me through whatever scary/exciting news this new adventure brings. Without my relationship with God, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be doing so well with this whole season of life (physically and more importantly mentally). So God. God is something that has become very important to me during this time in my life and I am forever grateful.
Health – I tried my best to eat healthy (besides my occasional (okay kind of frequent) 3 am Taco Bell runs after the bars. A Nacho Bell Grande after the Grizzly Rose just always gets me. I have zero self control when the Uber driver says it’s a go. I have always used exercise as an outlet, whether it be running, Orange Theory or HITT workouts. Those different activities have always been my outlet to relieve stress. But when I started to get sick, I wasn’t able to physically do what I was used to doing. Walking up stairs became a challenge for me. Being “sick” and not 100% is a very frustrating thing and has quickly turned to be one of the things on my “What’s Important in Life” list. Being able to say you are in “perfect health” is so rare these days and I miss it 100%. SO take of yourself. Eat the occasional Taco Bell but chase it down with a piece of Broccoli or something. Once your health isn’t 100% you’ll miss it and wish you took it more seriously.
Family/Friends– When all is said and done these are the people standing by your side when life blows up in your face. I pray that everyone has an amazing family/friend support system throughout the entirety of their life – especially when you’re getting continually wrecked by life all at once. I consider myself very blessed to have the family and friend support that I do. They are the ones picking you up off the bathroom floor when you’re crying so hard because Leukemia can be scary… am I right? They’re the ones who are there for you during the good, bad and ugly. So treasure these relationships. Don’t take them for granted. Take the time to nurture the relationships you have with the beautiful support system God has blessed you with. You never know when you’ll need them. And I promise you, there will be a time in your life when you need them. So love them, appreciate them and don’t take them for granted.
Experiences – Having cancer makes you really think back on what you’ve done so far in life and what you still want to do. During this process I haven’t once caught myself saying, “wow I’m so glad I bought that car that was a tad out of my budget.” Or, “you know what, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been because I bought those $399 Steve Maddens last week.” Instead, I’m catching myself wishing and planning experiences to partake in once all of this is over. Sitting on a beach with a cold drink surrounded by family and friends is literally the first thing on my list to do once I’m better. Sitting around a campfire and laughing so hard my stomach hurts in $12 tennis shoes from Walmart is number two. Life is short. And you never know what time you have left. So spend your money, energy and time on things that you can look back at and be happy with – hint it will probably include your life experiences rather than material objects you accumulated over your life span.
Now this isn’t me saying your career, life responsibilities and adulting aren’t important in life. Because they are. How else are you going to pay for your beach vacations or those $12 Walmart camping shoes? But what I AM SAYING is try and just have a little perspective. Pick your four “What’s Important In Life,” items for yourself personally. Try and live your life with those four items at the forefront of your every day life while juggling the items that aren’t necessarily going to be important to you when you look back over the grand scheme of your life. You can do both. And once you find your groove, you’ll be able to say you lived life the way you wanted once your day comes. Luckily, I was just given this sort of perspective at the age of 26 rather than 78 because again… Leukemia haha. Dang it.