How cancer shapes me

I am a breast cancer survivor. I am also a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a scrapbooker, a shopper (I love shoes!) a preschool teacher, a licensed hair stylist, and a writer. I’m sure I have forgotten something because I know I am a whole lot more than these titles suggest. Somehow, though, in my mind, “breast cancer survivor” seems to loom over all these other roles I play. Sometimes I think this is not okay — that I should not be defined by a disease that I do believe I will conquer. But other times, I think this is okay. Cancer is big. It’s monumental. And it does affect all these roles. It has changed my physical appearance so I doubt that cancer will ever be far from the front of my mind. And it has changed my mothering — I’m a little more patient and a lot more raw when it comes to love I feel for my baby boys. It has changed me as a friend — it reminds me to keep in touch with long-lost friends and to maintain friends who are close to me. It makes me see the preschoolers I work with as little beings who need so much love and attention and care — and it makes me happy that I get to share warmth and compassion with them while their parents are away. And cancer has led me to a new job — as a writer or “blogger” — and has rekindled in me the thrill of writing something that is read by many. I remember first seeing my name in print in my college newspaper when I was a journalism major (a major I dropped to instead pursue a degree in counseling and education). It was exciting then. It is exciting now.

I have had three posts published on My job is to write 50 or more posts per month on the topic of cancer. Yesterday I wrote about a sister breast cancer survivor who has inspired me and also about Hip Hats — the internet store where I bought my wigs. Today I wrote about Chemo Angels — a volunteer organization that assigns volunteers to write to patients experiencing treatment for cancer. So I’ve seen my name appear three times, complete with my own story and photo and headline and I am eager to write more. And to receive a paycheck too!

So cancer does not define me. But it does shape me. If it weren’t for cancer, I would not be as thoughtful about some of my roles in this world. And I would not have been offered this job. Because of cancer and my personal blog, I was “discovered” by someone who liked my writing and thought I could offer something valuable to a whole audience of people. Cancer has awakened me to my love for writing and is heading me down a new, bright path. A path of discovery and happiness.

For a change.

Jacki Donaldson