Heather’s blog: Cancer included

July 13, 2016

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By Heather Bonynge

My name is Heather Bonynge. I’m 35 years old. I have been married to my husband Sean for nearly 14 years. Together, we have a beautiful daughter named Brynn; she is seven years old. I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I love cheesecake (almost too much to a fault), and I dislike social politics and seafood.

I work and play hard. I love challenges, and I welcome risks. I am not good at being straight with people when it comes to conflict; this is something I would like to be better at. The most regrettable choice in my life was spending three years with a man who did not respect me and broke my spirit. It was this choice, however, that ultimately lead me down the path to find the greatest joys of my life: my husband and my daughter.

My name is Heather Bonynge, and I am a cancer survivor.

This is who I am.

Five years ago, I’m not sure I knew who I was. I was two years out of a cancer treatments, and I was trying so hard to just get through each day without falling apart, but truthfully, every piece of me was scattering gracelessly all over the floor. It was in the midst of this messy, private, inner breakdown that I found YACC and attended my first Survivor Conference in Ottawa in 2011.

Five years later, I have turned a corner, re-routed my path, and given myself permission to learn and love everything about who I am, cancer included. I owe this upturn in my life to a community of people who just get it!

I walked into my first YACC event very disconnected from my diagnosis. I had literally written in my journal a dozen times, “I AM NOT CANCER. CANCER DOES NOT DEFINE ME.” It has taken me a long time, and a lot of writing and re-writing of my story to realize, as I noted above, that having cancer has become BIG part of how I define myself and the person I am today. The difference now is that it no longer holds the negative association it did in my journal; rather, I am stronger and I am surer of myself than I was even before my diagnosis.

I focused for a long time, even after connecting with YACC, on everything cancer had taken away from me — time, fertility, health, perspective — and I’ll be honest, there are days that it still really hurts. The feelings of grief and loss never completely disappear. Eventually though, I was able to take a step back from cancer and everything I felt it had taken from me, and figure out a way that I could give back. That’s when things started to move forward, and life started to feel like it had a purpose and direction again. If you had asked me five years ago where I saw myself today, it would not have been here, but here I am, and I love myself head to toe, inside and out. This is me, cancer included.

I tried for so long to find my way back to the person I was before cancer; but the truth is, she no longer exists; at least not exactly. I am who I am because of AND despite cancer! This is me! Some days are hard, other days are harder, but I no longer chase the shadow of who I was around like Peter Pan. The person I was before cancer was also pretty great, so I have kept her close at hand, tucked away in a drawer with Tinkerbell so I can look to her for guidance from time to time. For right now though, I am taking the time to embrace who I am, who each of us can be as individuals — bad-ass, fun loving, risk-taking survivors with stories to share, cancer included.

Live life on purpose.

Heather XOXO

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