Elizabeth Sorensen had just moved from Minnesota to Texas to begin a new career and live closer to her boyfriend. She was looking forward to the possibilities her new life held – until she felt a lump in her breast.
Within a week of her arrival, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her tumor was the size of a golf ball and she was eventually diagnosed with stage 2B triple positive breast cancer.
“The adventures I had envisioned for my new beginning in Texas quickly changed as chemo slowly ate away my cancer, killed my appetite and dwindled my ability to venture more than 30 minutes away from my home.”
Five months into her treatment regimen and just two weeks before her last round of chemo, she got another shock. Her boyfriend, who had been by her side through her entire journey, told her he had been cheating on her with her friend. She was devastated and faced with a decision: to stay in Texas where she knew no one, or move back to Minnesota where she had a strong network of family and friends.
“My Texas surgeon told me, ‘Healing is more than just the wounds and body recovering. It’s a psychological process, and you’ll need the love and support of your tribe to get you through this.’”
So, four days after her last chemo session, Elizabeth packed her bags and moved back to Minnesota for the next phase of her treatment, a bilateral nipple sparing mastectomy. Her friends and family wrapped themselves around her as she battled the side effects associated with her mastectomy and immunotherapy.
Over the course of her journey to recovery, she says she’s learned some important lessons that she will carry through her life:
1. Choose happiness
Happiness is a choice, not a result. No person, or job or accomplishment will make you happy unless you decide to be happy.
“I went through more challenges in five months than many people do in a lifetime: a cross-country move, a health diagnosis, the loss of a job, and the loss of a partner. I decided early on in my cancer journey to see the silver lining in it all. I didn’t know what was ahead, but seeing beauty through the darkness is what truly got me through.”
2. Advocate for yourself
Elizabeth first felt her lump months before she was diagnosed with cancer. A doctor had told her it was just hardened tissue, and she didn’t need a mammogram.
“I wish I had known then what I know now. Get second opinions. Do research and know your options. The only person that is going to advocate for your health is you.”
3. Every day is a gift
Elizabeth recently celebrated her last infusion. Although she still has two more surgeries to go, she is celebrating because she is expecting to live a full life. And she’s celebrating the thousands of people behind her journey to recovery – from the doctors and nurses to the researchers who helped develop her treatment. All of the obstacles she faced and the people who pulled her through worked together to get her to where she needed to be in life.
“Cancer has been a reboot for my life. It reminded me that every day is a gift, no matter how good or bad. I’ve learned that people are our most precious commodity, so cherish your family and friends. And I’ve learned that there’s so much to be thankful for, even that very breath you just took. So, choose joy every day. Because, every day, no matter how good or bad, is such a gift.”
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