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Breast Cancer Taught Me to Experience Life, Not Just Do Life

Claudia Schmidt has taken the experience of having breast cancer and turned it into something much, much more than an illness. We are always happy to share her posts on Midlife Boulevard. Read more from Claudia on her blog, My Left Breast.Breast Cancer Taught Me to Experience Life, Not Just Do Life

In the back of my mind I’m almost always thinking about what my next blog post will be.  There are days, weeks even, where I just don’t want to write about breast cancer, think about breast cancer or even remind myself that I had breast cancer.

And on those days, I start to think that I want to change the whole name and focus of this blog, which is kind of ridiculous, ’cause it’s called My Left Breast, so I really can’t write about anything else on here….

But, in reality, breast cancer has become a part of my life now, just as my children and husband are a part of my life, just as my career is a part of my life, just as my friends and family are all a part of my life.

Post breast cancer, my life is now colored by the experience several times a day.  Many of the reminders are negative.  I see my reconstruction scars each morning, I feel the annoying tug and pull in my chest from the reconstruction whenever I sit in a soft backed chair, I take my  damned hot flash inducing Tamoxifen every morning and I still get scared every 6 months right before my bi-annual oncologist check-ups.  (My next one is in December which is what’s got me thinking about this post).


I do think that I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the experience.

Before you interpret that to mean that I’m saying I’m glad I got breast cancer, PLEASE don’t misread this statement.  Let me explain.

Before I had breast cancer, I always lived life as if I had no end date, as if I were going to last forever.  I never really considered my own mortality, never really thought about the fact that I’d die some day.  I raced and crashed through life, going full speed ahead, never really stopping to think things through, but instead focusing on moving, keeping active, rushing ahead, getting to the “end goal,” whatever that meant.

I juggled my career, raised my kids, kept my home, cooked, cleaned and did all the things every mom does, and went at it full speed ahead, never letting myself take the time to decompress and slow down.

I focused on doing life, instead of experiencing life.

But since my breast cancer, I consciously consider every thing I do through the lens of my mortality.  No, it’s not in a morbid or depressed way.  Rather, I now look at every decision in front of me through the lens of life post breast cancer, and ask myself, “Is this activity necessary and is it good for me, or is it bad for me?”

Based on the answer to that question, I then work on figuring out how to either add more of it into my life (if it’s good for me) or remove it from my life or at least substantially reduce the amount of time I spend on it (if it’s bad for me).

It’s a much more conscious way of living than what I was doing prior to breast cancer.  I don’t always get it right, but I would say that now, I’m making the right decisions of how to spend my time at least  75% of the time, when before breast cancer, I think it was about 30% right and 70% just racing towards the next thing on my to-do-list.

So, long winded way of getting to the point:  I like to write on here so I’m working really hard to make time for at least one new post a week, even during the busy season at work and with the holidays coming up, because it makes me happy.

How about you?  What’s changed in how you prioritize life after your breast cancer diagnosis or similar life changing experience?

Claudia Schmidt

Slightly obsessive-compulsive, self-employed mom with 2 very cool but snarky teenage kids who just happens to have been diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in February of 2010. Looking at life through a new lens now.

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Claudia Schmidt

Saturday 10th of January 2015

Thank you, so much for your kind comments, Jen. xo

Jenny Kanevsky

Thursday 8th of January 2015

I love your, perspective Claudia. I have a chronic illness and it changed mine. I'd not be who I am today without that.

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