A woman stands strong as the darkness shatters around her and reveals light.

I Am Not My Cancer

My name is Brittney. I am 30 years old, and I have stage IV bladder cancer. Take another look at that sentence. I HAVE cancer, I am not my cancer.

I am a wife. A proud mom to the best corgi ever. I am an avid reader. I am a sister. I am an accomplished young professional. I am one heck of a home chef. I am a daughter. I am a fashionista. I am a friend. I am a lot of things, but I am not cancer.

Losing myself in my disease

For the first year of my fight, I lost myself in my disease.

There was no separation between being Brittney and being a cancer patient. Every conversation I had revolved around my cancer. Every social media post, every decision I made, every little detail in my life had to do with bladder cancer.

To an extent, this was normal and to be expected. Here I was with this devastating diagnosis, fighting for my life and just trying to get through one day at a time. Yet, even when I was doing well, back at work, and generally back to some semblance of normal, everything still centered around my cancer.

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My husband helped me change my perspective

Everything came to a peak when one evening my husband all but begged, “Can we spend 15 minutes NOT talking about cancer?” I then realized that my immersion in my disease was no longer just impacting me; my husband was feeling the effects as well. I saw that my husband had lost a wife and was now just cohabitating with a cancer patient. It was this singular moment that forced me to completely rewire my thinking and take a different approach to how I was going to move forward with my life and my cancer.

My identity before bladder cancer

I had a whole life before I was diagnosed, and more importantly, this life did not just poof into thin air once I found out I had bladder cancer. By neglecting my identity as Brittney, I was letting cancer consume every waking moment and it was starting to take a toll on myself and everyone around me. Step by step, I started reclaiming time and space to be me and not my cancer.

Making time for hobbies and self-care

It started with little things, like making time for hobbies, scheduling days “off” where there was 100% no cancer talk for the day, and even making a point for weekly self-care nights where I could just focus on myself. I also took a long hard look at my schedule as far as speaking engagements, my writing schedule and social media presence that I use to talk about bladder cancer. I’ve created a weekly schedule where I have certain times set aside to do this cancer work, and then I have to be off the clock as far as my No Bladder Don’t Matter persona.

Finding a balance

Finding this balance didn’t happen overnight. It took a few months to find a way to wear my cancer hat and be able to take it off and live my non-cancer life. There are times I still struggle and I go down the rabbit hole of losing myself to being a cancer patient. Sometimes this is triggered by a not great doctor’s appointment, or a rotten day. It's normal and I’m sure all of us have those days from time to time.

Now, when I have a chance to speak to someone newly diagnosed, one of the first pieces of advice I give is to remember, “You HAVE cancer, cancer is not something you are.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The BladderCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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