Guest post by scrapbooker and photographer Laura Vanderbeek. This is her story of courage and conviction in the face of cancer.
Ahhh, cancer. It’s a frightening word. You’re no longer the invincible person you thought you were.
You remember that day for the rest of your life.
I was thirty years old. It was April 21, 2006 and I had just put my newborn son down for a nap while my four year old daughter was playing on the neighbor’s trampoline as I called my doctor anxious for the results. I’d been sick for four years and was finally getting an answer.
I had a stage 2B Hodgkins Lymphoma tumor inside my chest and neck. It was 3 inches wide and over 12 inches long. During 2006 I photographed 4 weddings but made 22 thirty page wedding albums and served on the inaugural editorial board for Digital Scrapbooking Magazine. And here I am almost five years later. I can honestly say that more good came from it than bad.
So how did battling cancer make my life better?
#1 – I found out who I really was.
I found this quote on lls.org and it said, “Remember who you really are. It is important to remember that while you may have leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, [insert your problems here] you are not your illness [or problem]. Your illness is something that happened to you, and although treatment may temporarily affect your appearance and capabilities, you are not what you look like or what you can do.”
You are not what you look like or what you can do? So who am I?
It took me months to finally find my answer and I tell you it was worth the journey. By that time I had lost all of my hair, my skin was sagging beyond belief, I was nauseated 80% of the time, and I could no longer cook, clean, or even carry my baby. By the world’s standards I wasn’t worth much but that’s when I discovered my real worth.
What do I love to do? I was the jack of all trades and master of none, at least until I had cancer and needed to focus my energy. What was I good at and what did I want to be good at?
I discovered that I am a storyteller.
I love combining photos and journaling with my art to tell a more complete story and beautiful story. Our website now focuses on albums. My scrapbooking now focuses on complete storytelling rather than pages with great titles and cute quotes.
#2 – I quit wasting energy on the unimportant and to prioritize like never before.
For me this included grudges, having a perfectly clean house, and worry about what others thought about me. I finally realized that I could only control how I felt about others. When someone was cruel I tried to send positive thoughts their way. I also had to just let go of the worry. My family would survive if the house was not spotless.
I decided that worrying about what others were saying or doing was wasting my energy. My goal was to heal and I had to put every ounce of effort towards that. Today I am feeling a lot better and have more energy but I still need this. I have to decide on a daily basis what’s really important. First and foremost I am a mother. If I’m happy as a mother I am a better photographer and digital scrapbook artist. Having dinner together each night as a family is one of my goals. Some nights we eat hot dogs. Some nights it’s pepper steak made with garlic, bell peppers, and tomatoes fresh from my garden. The most important thing is that we are fed and we have time to talk as a family. And because this is important I have to let some things go.
Want to know what the next three steps are? Come back next week to find out! In the meantime, stop by Laura’s blog and leave her a note of thanks for sharing such an amazing honest account with us!