Inspiration and motivation, Young Cancer Survivors, Article, Video

OACCUs challenge: Mila's contribution

Hi, my name is Mila and I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 26 years old. It’s an understatement to say that it was a shock, and that I, in that exact moment, felt how my life was falling apart. 

Part of it was because there’s such a taboo around the word, that, as a society, we don’t openly talk about the illness. I was so young that I felt that the freedom that it comes at that age gap was taking from me. I was just starting to live my life, to make my own decisions and mistakes, I was barely starting my career, I was just starting to develop as an individual. 

No one in my family had cancer, so we didn’t have any idea about how many types of cancer and treatments exist, how was the process, how to face this new reality. I often found myself cheering my family and friends up, because they didn’t have a clue about how to talk about it, expect from it or feel about it. At first they didn’t even know how to have a normal conversation with me, so I had to work extra hard to remind them and let them know that we can talk about everything like we used to do, that nothing changed between us, that their problems were as important as mine. I do want to hear about your new crush,  do want to hear that you got into a fight with your mum, I do want to hear about your new job…. And we can also talk about me and how difficult it is what I’m going through, but we will also talk about the tv show that I’m currently watching, the conversations I had with MY crush, and our plans for our future.

It’s an extremely isolating illness and treatment, so it’s crucial to have a good support system that will be there and won’t judge you, that will hold your hand through it and will use bad words with you when you’re feeling like you’re about to break down. And it’s also extremely important to have the right team with you, that will give you support physically and emotionally speaking. 

With so many medical appointments and tests, we often get lost and feel lonely in the middle of it. Before the treatment I was already following a healthy life style and I was pretty active, but during the treatment and specially afterwards it had a different purpose, meaning and impact in my life. On those good days after the IV treatment I felt quite powerful, so I would go for long walks on the beach with the sunrise (to prevent sun damage on the skin) or sunset, I’d go to the park with my nephew to pick up tree leaves or flowers and sit on a bench to listen to the birds, and watch how the trees will move with the air. I’ll use any excuse to go for a walk with my friends and I will drag them on hikes with me bright and early in the day, and I’ll go by myself when life felt too heavy. Focusing on feeling the breeze, the sun, listening to the sound of the birds, the leaves, the waves… Focusing on breathing, fresh and clean air, focusing on the present moment, helped me back then but it helps me nowadays even more. It’s the main reason I take and see the things life throws at me in a different way. It’s why I handle the infinite amount of stress, anxiety and sadness that often came when I have a test or an appointment. It’s what helps me to focus on what really matters and what I can actually control.
Being in nature, connecting with the environment and connecting with others survivors sounds like the perfect way to keep healing the different layers that our wounds have since we got diagnosed. It’s very vulnerable to talk openly about it, but being in a place where we won’t be judged, where no one will look at us with sadness, where we won’t feel afraid to share our experiences, knowledge and how much our lives have changed sounds like an absolute dream, and I’d love to be part of it and be part of the positive change and work that OACCUs is doing. Creating a safe environment and platform for the survivors, our families and friends, supported by each others and being surrounded by the right professionals is exactly what the world needs. Keeping an open conversation, breaking the taboo around the word, promoting a supervising a healthy life style and outdoors activities during and after the treatment, helping each other throughout our experiences and knowledge, showing empathy and letting the other know that it’s okay to not feel okay, that we have each other, and that every single time we feel like the world’s too heavy or we feel lonely, that we are not alone. I want to be part of the positive change, the new narrative that OACCUS is creating, I want to be part of the conversation. I want to help others, I want them to have the information, the knowledge, the emotional and physical support that most of us didn’t have during nor after the treatment. 

I know that it’s going to be a part of me, of us, forever. But I won’t let it define me. I’m going to keep living my life the best I can, I’m going to keep eating healthy and practicing outdoors activities because I know how incredibly positive their impact is. I’m going to keep dancing and singing in my room and shower, I’m going to keep talking about it to help breaking the taboo around cancer, I’m going to keep playing football with my nephew, I’m going to keep working on myself, I’m going to keep enjoying every single little moment of happiness that I get to experience everyday. I’m going to keep shining, WE are going to keep shining no matter what. 

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HADEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.