My whole life changed when, at the age of 27, I was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. At a time when my husband and I should have been focusing on our future, we filled our days with managing the side effects of my chemotherapy. Instead of starting a family we had to concentrate on my recovery from surgeries. I needed a way to cope, clear my mind, and document my journey.
I turned to writing.
At first, I started a blog to keep my family and friends informed of my medical appointments. The more I wrote, the more my writing became a source of support and inspiration for me. As I sat alone in cold clinic rooms for scans and procedures, I would envision the comments left by others on my blog. I could feel the love and positive energy surrounding me like beacons twinkling in the night. I knew whatever happened, we would all be okay, because we had each other.
When I couldn’t sleep, I’d take out my computer and start typing. At times, tears rolled down my face as my fingers typed faster than my emotions could keep up. I wrote things that I hadn’t yet taken the time to slow down and process. Often I would seek out little, sometimes humorous, moments in my life to write about to relieve the heaviness of the dark days.
Five years after that diagnosis we were blessed with our beautiful daughter through the help of a gestational surrogate. I thought our story was ending with “happily ever after,” but less than four months later I learned my cancer had metastasized.
My cancer was no longer about pink ribbons.
Janell Meier’s mission in life is to inspire others to be their own advocate, keep humor even in difficult times, and lean on others. She thrives on connecting and learning from others while educating on the importance of metastatic breast cancer research. Janell was the full scholarship recipient of Joanne Fedler’s 2018 Author Awakening Adventure and has used the opportunity to further grow as an emerging author while learning about herself. Writing has been a way to process and cope with her life experiences. Janell’s hope is that her young daughter won’t have to remember her only by her written words.
This time it meant I was fighting for my life. I would never again hear the words, “You are cancer free.” I was left wondering how long I would have to see my baby grow up. At the young age of 33, I had already been to too many funerals for my friends that had passed away from metastatic breast cancer. This second diagnosis left me facing a new plot that could have an entirely different resolution.
One day, while at the cancer center for treatment, I met a four-year-old girl and her family. She wore a princess shirt and her family of three lit up with excitement as they told me about their recent vacation to Disney World. Our baby was about to turn one year old so, naturally, I saw in them my own little family. It was then that I decided I wasn’t going to wait for my baby to grow up to make all sorts of memories with her. Months later, I learned that cancer took that mother away from her family forever. Though my interaction with that young woman was short, she became a shooting star in my life and made more of an impact on me than she was ever able to realize. Being inspired by her example, I’ve been lucky enough to have written about my daughter’s first time taking off in an airplane, and her first time experiencing the power and beauty of the ocean.
My little girl is now three and I continue to document as much of my life as I can. I jot down ordinary moments that touch my heart. Whether it be song lyrics, a simple interaction with my daughter, or a memory of my own childhood. I seek out the tiny daily miracles and interactions in life that can be easily overlooked. I find these moments can be as magical as a blazing comet in the evening sky.
When you take the time to look, you’ll find amongst all the darkness, your life story is sprinkled with many stars. Parts of our life storylines are laid out for us. All of us face our own struggles. The thing is that we can strengthen and inspire others by sharing bits about our experiences. We each have the power to light the way for others who may be in their own dark of night.