Guest Writer: Elizabeth Mannen, Wells Fargo Advisors
When people ask me about my life, and all the experiences that have come together to create my life, I would compare it to a dance that has kept me on my toes.
My “dance with cancer” started in 1991 and continues to the present day. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the young age of 26. The cancer returned in 2000 and again in 2003. If that weren’t enough to deal with, I learned in 2007 that I had breast cancer. The breast cancer returned this year.
There aren’t words to describe the day, the moment, you get your diagnosis. I remember being awash with a numbing disbelief that the doctor was reading someone else’s test results. It takes time to sink in, and for me that happened a few bits at a time. Still, after the initial couple of days I was left with the most primitive feeling of all: fight or flight. I chose fight. And fight I continue to do.
I admit there were watershed moments for me. My first chemo treatment and losing my hair, but there were also many others that aren’t so obvious to non-cancer survivors – things like seeing kids dressed up for prom and wondering if I would live to see my twins do the same.
Today, my 26-year-old twins, Kristopher and Katherine, are part of my support system that I am certain is saving my life. My support system has been key to my survival. My family, friends and co-workers have done everything from provide meals, to shuttle the twins around when they were younger. Cancer has taught me to be humble and to quickly learn to accept kindness and help from others when it is offered.
My biggest regret over the years is the fear, worry and downright inconvenience I’ve caused my husband Bill and our kids. I know it sounds ridiculous, but family doesn’t get much better than the three of them, and at times I feel they just deserve someone without all the baggage.
My biggest surprise over the past 22 years is that cancer comes with so many gifts and insights. All the clichés and adages about the sky being bluer and the flowers smelling sweeter ring true for me. Cancer reminds me that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow, so what we do today matters. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary but we need to live with intention and purpose.
Today, I feel more love, more joy, more compassion and have more capacity for life’s good and bad because of what I’m going through with cancer.
We are getting so close to a cure for breast cancer. And when that happens, the cure for other cancers won’t be far behind.
Once again, Elizabeth Mannen is on the Team Wells Fargo Advisors steering committee for the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. Her goal is to encourage Financial Advisors in local branches to register for the Race and to get their clients, friends and family to join them.