Reflections on what I have learned

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Reflections on what I have learned

Loretta O'Donnell, of Mount Laurel, NJ, diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in her liver at 56 in 2010. As a deadline oriented, multi-tasking press officer when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, I was like a deer in headlights, staring and hearing the words but paralyzed and not comprehending. My thinking that I just had a stomach bug caught during a recent trip to the islands changed in a second to belief that I would soon be dead. I was most afraid of dying because I didn??™t want my happy life to change and I didn??™t want to leave my wonderful husband Bill and two children, Mike and Laura. Since my diagnosis, I have developed closer relationships and friendships, done a lot of soul searching and learning. Now, it is not so much how much I accomplish but relationships, thinking how I want to be remembered. People may forget what you said and did but they always remember how you made them feel, to paraphrase Maya Angelou. I joined a small weekly meditation group of women I met through my cancer center and began volunteer writing for the center's newsletter. I continued to travel, ski and go on adventures with my family and friends. The mental challenge and positive spirit is the hardest part, tougher than the chemo side effects, and most important. To continue to do the things you loved before and to not be afraid to try new things you may like. Don??™t worry about being good at things, enjoy and savor the experiences. To feel like a superhero for a day, I donned my daughter's Halloween costume for a party as Mrs. Incredible from The Incredibles movie. I recently had another chance to inspire others by modeling in a cancer fundraiser fashion show in New York City supported by dear old schoolmates who have been friends for more than 50 years. "It??™s not the years in your life, but the life in your years," as Abe Lincoln said. Writing memory highlights of your life can be a powerful reminder of a person's legacy. I read a suggestion that it is very meaningful for people to ask friends and family to write down some memories and ways that the person has added value to their life. I did that and was awestruck by so many loving responses, compliments and fond memories spanning decades and all aspects of my life. Some people wrote memories of things I had forgotten and others saw the strength I didn??™t know I had. We often compare ourselves to others and think we are just average, but we are all special and influential. Our reach goes far beyond what we think. I have become more spiritual through prayer and meditation and have met many wonderful people I wouldn??™t have otherwise. I believe we are eternal beings having a human experience on earth. While cancer sometimes makes us feel alone, I believe that there is a divine connectedness. When I was diagnosed, I was afraid I couldn??™t adjust but I not only adjusted, I learned to flourish with the help of many kind mentors, aligning with my true self, being more authentic , and giving and receiving love more openly and freely.


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