Setting priorities during cancer treatment

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Brandie sellers cancer treatment breast cancer diagnosis tree.JPGBy Brandie Sellers

Before I even had a confirmed breast cancer diagnosis, one of my first thoughts was "I don't have time for cancer." I had a full-time job and am a single mom with children who were nine, six and three at the time. I had an active social life. I was teaching two yoga classes per week. How could I fit cancer treatment into my life?  

I was completely unprepared for my life to be consumed by cancer. But consume my life it did: Scans, chemotherapy, blood work, doctor visits, radiation, six surgeries and six recoveries. One week I had 14 appointments.

It all takes so much time, planning,  rearranging, and  peeling away what's not important.

Cancer treatment forces simplicity
When you are faced with a cancer treatment schedule, you get pretty clear about what's important and what's not.  

Children? Yes. Dishes? No.

That person who wants to have coffee with you, but you know they will drain your energy? No, thank you. 

This applies to more than just my schedule. This journey has led me to have a household budget that's reduced by over half of what it was when I was diagnosed.  

I didn't start out with a lot of extra money, so we've learned live on a lot less. I shop at the thrift store. My children wear hand-me-downs. We don't eat out  much.  

And yet, this summer, I realized something.  In this forced simplicity we've found contentment. Our house is a wonderful, happy place.  

Yes, my kids still cry and argue and call each other names. 

And, I still sometimes lose my temper over a water fight in the bathroom.  

But, by and large, we are a happy lot.  

 We can be present with each other and rest in the knowledge that we're blessed to still have one another.  
Less is more: A gift from cancer
I'm grateful for the gift of awareness that less is more. I don't  know if I would've  received that gift if I hadn't gotten cancer. 

I've learned that if I want my life to stay uncomplicated, I have to be the gatekeeper to what I let in. That includes people, things and experiences. 

For example, I rarely answer the phone anymore. The other day I got a call from someone who has only been a toxic contribution in my life. I didn't answer the phone. She left a message. She wanted to spend time with me and the children. I will choose not to let her into our lives. 

Setting boundaries for my health
This isn't mean; it's a boundary I know I have to keep. I can't scatter my energy in unhealthy ways because then there won't be enough left for me and the children and the relationships I do want to cultivate.

As I write, I've been in bed for five days now with pneumonia. When I got sick I did not think "I have no time to be sick!"

Instead, I knew I had to rest until I was better, and that there's nothing so important in my schedule that can't wait or be canceled.   I've slept and written and read books and cuddled with children. I'd say that's time well spent. 

In the New Year, I don't set resolutions, I set intentions. One intention I make every year now is to keep giving myself the gift of simplicity.

Brandie Sellers teaches yoga, meditation, nutrition and cooking. She paints, writes, runs and plays with her children. She is a divorcee and two-time breast cancer survivor who's undergone a double mastectomy.

Brandie is crazy about her three children, and is blessed with a slew of sister friends who pick her up when she's down, keep her honest with herself when she's full of it, and make her laugh until she cries. Follow her at

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1 Comment

Brandie, I am so with you on the topic of boundaries and choosing to do only those things that bring you joy. My life is much simplified since my cancer diagnosis. I am more at peace. I agree with you that this is a gift I might not have found without a cancer diagnosis. I love your approach and read your posts with great appreciation. Good luck. Margaret

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