By Guest Blogger Hillary Zaken

I’m going to call the story of this summer: “A cancer diagnosis, a wedding, and a bar mitzvah.”

You see, in May I was diagnosed with cancer. But as you all know, that is not the end of the story.

This summer was supposed to be full of big joyful plans – a long-awaited family vacation, my wedding, my son Lahav’s bar mitzvah. My diagnosis was frightening and daunting, but I was damned if I was going to let cancer derail my plans.

So in consultation with my oncologist, we scheduled surgery as soon as possible. I knew I was going to have to rest for 8 to 10 weeks, and even after that period, I wouldn’t even be at 50% capacity. My surgery was July 6th, and I finally recently learned that it was a success! I am just so happy that my cancer was caught early enough that it could be resolved by surgery, and I am floored and grateful that early detection, thanks to regular doctor’s visits, truly saved my life.

My cancer was aggressive and fast moving, and I can only hope that there will be no recurrence. I also know that the things that saved me are the exact things that will get me through in the future: preventative medicine and regular check-ups, and the love and support of my family and friends.

I know that looking forward to the joy of my wedding and the happiness of Lahav’s bar mitzvah allowed me to look to the future with optimism, with positivity, and with a resolute spirit.

Yeah, there are still going to be steep medical bills pouring in for months (the costs of cancer treatments can be quite prohibitive). I will have regular check-ups for the next 5 years at least. I am still not back to normal; despite my outward appearance there is lots of pain and much healing to do.

But today I can sit here and say that I am married to the love of my life, my oldest son is about to become a bar mitzvah, and I am cancer free!

This is not to say that I am putting this negative experience behind me. Rather, surviving cancer is going to be part of the rich tapestry of colors and experiences that make me who I am. I have learned so much.

What I know is true is that…

1) Family is everything and love is powerful

2) It actually does take a village.

3) Early detection saves lives and health care is absolutely a human right.

4) A positive attitude and a resilient spirit will get you through almost anything.

I’ve always been a doer, a positive thinker, a survivor. I fully believe in the power of a flexible and creative mindset, of not letting an obstacle stop me. This was never a fight to win or lose. It’s part of my journey, another experience that will be part of my life story. Because I believe that I can, we can, you can… do anything.

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