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My journey with breast cancer began in May of 2015 when I was diagnosed with infiltrating ductile carcinoma. When I got the call, I honestly couldn’t believe the words coming from the doctor on the other end. I remember trying to write down the diagnosis, but I couldn’t quite get it all down, because my whole life was flashing before my eyes simultaneously. Then, all of a sudden, all the noises around me became louder. The doctor might as well have been speaking Cantonese, because it took me, what felt like, forever to decipher. Clearly, this was not her first rodeo, since she spoke even slower and asked if I got it all written down. Then, she repeated that I needed to make an appointment with the recommended breast surgeon this week.
As it is for most people, those moments, those words, are forever engraved in my mind; I will never forget them, and I'm inclined to believe that's a good thing, as it is a constant reminder of the humility that comes with being reminded that we aren't invincible and time is invaluable.
Since treatment, I look back and say with complete confidence that I have experienced a lot of change - emotionally and physically. People continually told me I would be a different person on the other end. They weren't wrong. I think the most noticeable difference for me is how I now truly recognize the fragility of life. I thought I did before, but I really understood very little about it.
Cancer is real. Loss is real. Questions and insecurities are real. The pain is real.
When I look back at my experiences through treatment, I remember so many intense pains, like getting threaded for surgery, the stinging (and ultimately the collapsing) of my veins, the persistent bone pains, the anxiety throughout treatment, and becoming a walking skeleton during radiation. However, these pains - every single one of them - made me very cognizant of the impact pain has on my personal life. These pains showed me how much impact my thoughts have on my well-being, how much stress impacts my physical health, and how much the foods I ingest and products that I buy affect the animals, planet, and other people around me.
These pains have helped me recognize how important it is to me to be a voice of love and kindness, to give back to causes that that lifted me in times of difficulty, and to respect our planet and the other beings living beside us.
Today, because of these pains, I am continually working to make intentional decisions about products and foods I ingest and put on my skin (which for the most part I did prior to cancer). I don't eat animal meat, because I don't want any other being to suffer as I have, and I live with a sensitivity to the energy of the environment. Because of these pains, I have learned (and I am still learning) to focus on myself, to speak to myself with love, to indulge in practices of healing, like yoga, mantras, and positive affirmations, to use earth-made essential oils to elevate my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, and to stay consistent with weekly, wonderful, self-care rituals. Because of my pain, I have and continue to learn how my thoughts and my actions affect my well-being. This realization is invaluable and has made the pain worth it. My personal hero is in heaven; he is my brother-in-law, Mario. Mario was diagnosed with (at the time) incurable cancer and given six years to live. Instead of accepting that timeline, he insisted he would beat it, and he lasted twelve years. He fought hard every single moment, and every single day of those twelve years. Seeing him go through chemotherapy and radiation multiple times was a life-changing experience. When it became my turn to fight cancer, I knew I could do it. After all, I saw Mario do it, and I learned true physical and mental fortitude. Thank you, Mario, for the strength, and endurance I gained from watching you. Your passion is and will continue to be felt for a lifetime.
At this point in my life, I am continuing to lean into practices of self-love, a deepened self-awareness, and the value of being love to all others, including animals. One of the ways I am spreading love is to help others manage and maintain wellness in the moment. I’ve recently engineered and patented an innovative way to stay on top of one’s wellbeing. The company is called Japaflow and is launching a soft launch in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
I hope to empower others to enjoy the many benefits of essential oils, on the go, which has helped me balance my anxiety through treatment. I hope to inspire others to welcome the beautiful growth you will inevitably inherit as a result of pain. I hope to use Japa Flow to give back to the causes that have helped me heal, like breast cancer awareness and research, conservation efforts, humanitarian and disaster relief resources, and rescuing and rehabilitating animals. I hope to be a voice for the importance of taking care of Number One first, and I hope to provide others the opportunity to fearlessly pursue their self-care as well.
I will leave you with this. Throughout treatment, I found peace, healing, and restoration in one simple positive affirmation: "I love you, Liz." When's the last time you told yourself you love yourself? Start there. True healing and restoration begin there - when you love yourself. Remember, however, that loving yourself is a journey, not a destination.
You can continue to stay up to date with Liz's company and her journey on Instagram @japaflow and @elifirg.
Submitted by: Liz Firg