Finding out you've got a tumor the size of a fun size Mars bar making itself at home right where the sun doesn't shine, can change a girl's outlook on life.
It can change a lot of things.
Like how you love your kids, how you take care of yourself, how you pray, and how much toilet paper you buy (in case you didn't know, my cancer was rectal cancer - I know, a bummer, literally).
That was five years ago and my oncologist has just given me the all clear. She never wants to see me again, ever! Since losing both my mum and sister to cancer it was an emotional, bittersweet victory.
To say the last five years have been a roller coaster would be like saying Jaws is a small minnow and Bill Gates is comfortably well off.
It's been crazy, friends. There were highs, with outpourings of love and deep connection with the Man Upstairs, but the lows were horrid (no gory details now because I've shared some of my Why me, Lord, why me? stories before).
I don't know about you, but I've never stepped off a rollercoaster quite the same girl as when I got on, so I thought I’d share some of the things I wish I knew before I got cancer.
1. People say the craziest things.
Unfortunately, people don't know what to say when you tell them you've got cancer.
And that's OK. It just means what comes out of their mouth can be wonderfully loving 'Oh I'm so sorry to hear that', mind-blowingly thoughtless 'Oh my uncle had that - he died last month', or totally real and honest 'Well that sucks!'
Yes, I've had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of all of these and I've heard much worse from other survivors.
In our fear and awkwardness, we botch it. We're just not as kind as we'd like to be. So now I stick to a script of my favorite response: 'That totally sucks and I hate that for you. I'm here for you and want to help by...'
2. Asking for help isn't weak.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Our strength can be our greatest weakness. The last five years have taught me asking for help does not mean I'm useless, helpless, worthless, pathetic, weak, less-than, or any other personal slur I can come up with.
It just means I can't do it all. And that's OK too.
Someone else can cook meals, go to the supermarket, mow the lawn, take the kids to soccer, change light bulbs, and walk the dogs.
No one else can go to chemo. No one else can snuggle with your kids and say "no matter what, mummy loves you." No one else can go to your doctor's appointments.
Now I'm better at asking for help. When something comes along I can delegate, defer, delete, or do it.
Maybe you're a recovering "Do-er," too.
3. I'm stronger than I seem.
And so are you.
It's not until we're faced with something frightening that we realise how brave we can be. What mountains could I have climbed, what dragons could I have slain, and what enemies could I have faced, if I'd known in my 20s and 30s how strong and brave I could be?
Don't wait to find out, friends.
4. Life doesn't have to be perfect, to be full.
I used to believe that with enough faith and old school gumption, life could be a perfect fairytale, or at least if I behaved and believed enough, life would be easy. Then my mum and my sister Jo died of cancer, and I was diagnosed - and the illusion shattered.
Are you kidding me, God? Where's the abundant life you came to give me? Where's the full life you promised?
My journey has convinced me that the life in all its fullness Jesus came to give us (John 10:10) isn’t reserved for the gaps between the troubles He also said we'd face (John 16:33).
I've found ways to experience his rich abundant life, slap bang in the middle of the hard stuff. It is possible friends, when we trust him, when we choose to be brave, vulnerable, in community, and reach out.
It's not always pretty, and it's never perfect, but it is full and abundant. Let's embrace it.
5. "Soft and Strong" is worth paying for.
Loo paper was just loo paper before I had cancer.
Now it's vital to my overall well-being and mood. Scratchy one ply can ruin this girl's day.
Whether it's the right loo paper, a new lipstick, or your favorite posh tea bags, somethings are worth paying a little bit extra for, especially when they have the power to disproportionately brighten your day.
Go on, splash out, go wild, and by the brand with extra Aloe. You'll thank me tomorrow.
(If you or someone you know has cancer, I'm so sorry. It stinks. I want to be here for you. Let me know what you're struggling with right now by dropping me a line via social media. I promise to read it and write back. Niki xx)
Niki Hardy is a Brit in the USA, a cancer survivor and pastor’s wife, a fresh air junkie and tea drinker. As a speaker and blogger her candid, humorous storytelling helps us, find humor and grace in the darkest place, and learn to laugh when all we want to do is scream. She loves to make new friends, so find her and more encouragement, on her blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. When she’s not speaking, writing or running trails with her Doodles, she can be found trying to figure out how to use three remote controls to turn on one TV.
To hear more from Niki listen to 'Woman to Woman' on Premier Christian Radio tomorrow from 10:30am