It’s been 2,259 days since my oncologist told me I no longer had cancer. When I stop to think about each day, it still brings tears to my eyes and butterflies to my belly. I have learned so much about who I am as a person, and how I want to show up in the world before I die.
In fact, thinking about and getting comfortable with death has allowed me to really cherish each day that I wake up to see the sunrise, each moment I spend with loved ones and to make better choices on how and with whom I spend my time.
One of the biggest lessons that life after cancer has taught me is that we need each other. Each and every one of us can make a life changing impact in this world by helping others. And in helping others, we help ourselves, too.
After cancer, I soon realized that there was little understanding of what someone goes through after cancer. No one talks about it. No one teaches you how you may or may not feel. Like cancer, each person has their own experience. Some of us navigate perfectly fine and can go on with life as before. Some of us fall into deep states of anxiety, guilt and depression, while others find a middle ground in between it all. As for me, I found a strength I never knew I had. I learned over time that the more I shared, the more I realized we are all the same – just trying to find the joy in feeling free again; free of the worry, fear and thoughts of death.
In my journey, I recognized that, in order to find that freedom of joy, I had to surround myself with others who were searching for their joy, too. Once I was able to find them and connect, together we became stronger. It’s as if we surround ourselves in protective armor that no one else can quite understand. Strangely, the larger our “tribe” gets, the more joy and peace we begin to feel again. It’s not that we don’t worry, but now we worry together as one community asking each other to pick us up in times of need. It is so comforting to know others have your back through the worst of storms.
From the time that I started documenting my cancer journey in 2016, my blog has evolved many times. I have met hundreds of survivors with so many similar stories and the need to connect with each other. Because in sharing our stories, we can help heal one another from the traumatic experience of hearing the words “you have cancer.” Six years later, those words no longer mean death to me. Those words now mean LIFE. And I am living life after cancer to the fullest, never missing a moment to tell someone I love them, take the trip I never thought I would take, do something that scares me like singing on stage in front of a packed audience and eating the chocolate cake. Why? Because there is JOY in doing these things – and life is short.
Who would have known that by writing a blog in hopes of connecting others and giving back, Shay’s Warriors would become a lifeline of support for so many cancer survivors? We have built a community of over 5,500 active followers – not just in the Coachella Valley, but across the country and the pond. Shay’s Warriors supports life after cancer through the mind-body connection. We have in-person and monthly virtual programs, workshops and more that have accountability to stay mindfully fit.
The one thing I am most proud of that our team has built is our survivor’s retreat. It’s a four-day, all-inclusive retreat that helps reset the mindset from “what cancer has taken from us” to “what cancer gives back to us” while gathering among others who understand. All of this is done by a magical team of volunteers whose time and talents continue to help others heal. And when participants leave the retreat, the unbreakable bonds of friendship last forever.
If you are a cancer survivor, or if you are a loved one who is a caretaker of a survivor, the Shay’s Warriors Life After Cancer community is for you. In this community, we see you, we hear you and we are walking beside you every step of the way. Until next time…live HOPE in Color.
Shay Moraga is founder and visionary of Shay’s Warriors Life After Cancer. She is a stage 3 TNBC thriver, Yoga for Cancer instructor and coach. For more on Shay’s Warriors Life After Cancer visit www.shayswarriors.org.