I have lost a lot in the last nine years. Sometimes I get down about that. I am human.

I lost my breasts, my hair, my smooth and unscarred skin. I lost my eyelashes, my eyebrows, some of my nails and a lot of my self-esteem. I lost my cookies on more than one occasion and my ability to enter a hospital without getting the dry heaves and having a panic attack. I lost so much blood during my twenty surgeries that I have needed a blood transfusion and am almost always anemic. I lost an ovary and more tears in the last nine years than I thought was possible. I have lost the ability to look at a pregnant woman without a small pang of sadness. I have lost trust in doctors and hospitals. I have lost the ability to exercise strenuously (ok, that one’s not so bad). I can no longer go on looping roller coasters, wear backless dresses or go sledding with the kids. I have lost the ability to carry shopping bags without my arms and chest being sore and painful and I have lost the ability to have the boundless energy that I once had.  I lost the grandparents I so dearly loved and the doctor who saved my life within two and a half years.

I have lost a lot.

Now, some of these things I would have lost in time but, I lost these things in my early thirties. That just sucked.

The hardest thing to lose was, without a doubt, my innocence. It is extremely hard for me to go through life without waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have lost the ability to think that “everything will be okay”. Sometimes, it’s not.

I work hard to reconcile these facts in my head by reiterating to myself, over and over again, what I have.

I have my life. Seems obvious, I know but, there are some points of despair that you can reach that make it necessary to tell yourself that having your life is a true blessing. Sometimes, things are so hard and seem so bleak and you feel so desperate that it is not a given.

Life is a precious gift, though, even when it is so hard. Even when things look like they won’t get any better. They almost always do. You have to try to appreciate your very life. That you draw breath is a miracle each and every day.

I also have a husband who loves me and two beautiful sons. I understand how lucky I am for this very fact. My tumor began growing when I was pregnant with my younger son, Jack. Since everything turned out ok, I am glad that I didn’t find out until after he was born that I had cancer. If I had found the tumor before he was born, I would have had to make the decision of whether or not to have chemotherapy while I was pregnant. Would I have been able to look at my living child and not had the chemo that could save my life? Conversely, would I have been able to make the decision to put poison in my body and possibly harm my unborn child, who I loved so deeply already? I thank God often that I was not forced to make that decision.

I am thankful to still have my mother. I am grateful that she survived cancer three times and that she is a person to look up to. Her life and how she lives it inspires me every day and has also inspired many others. There are currently two women I know who have been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer who have said that they look at my mom for hope and inspiration. She is a true person through and through and I love her with all of my heart.

I also have a beautiful, crazy and loving family. My sisters make me laugh every day and I am so fortunate to have them in my corner. They would do anything for me – all I’d have to do is say the word.

I am so lucky to have the same best friend since I was three years old. There are people who have come in and out of my life through the years but, Jill has been a constant. She knows me; the good, the bad and the ugly.  It is a relationship so special that it is hard to convey with words. We are spiritually connected on a very deep level. Jill doesn’t think of me as a cancer survivor, she doesn’t see my scars or pity me. She just sees “Nicole”. The same Nicole that she played with, cried over boyfriends with, celebrated with, had sleepovers with, put on plays with, grew up with. I am truly blessed to have her.

I am proud to be co-owner of a successful business. I work hard and pride myself on being a good person to work for. The business is over ten years old and going strong. I am grateful to have the flexibility that working for myself allows me. I would certainly have had to be on disability throughout these past years if I were working for someone else.

I gained an appreciation for the good physical features that I do have. I gained the knowledge that I may be physically altered from B.C. (before cancer) but, I am still me.

I thank God that my beautiful dog, Brody, also survived cancer last year ( I know – can you believe it?) He is cancer free and as crazy and nutty as ever.  I call him lumpy.

I have many friends and am blessed to have recently celebrated my fortieth birthday with them at a surprise party thrown for me by my husband. It may have been just me but, there was something special about that night. A positive aura in the room. It was also very emotional. I think everyone there realized what am important milestone it was for me, reaching forty.

Yes, I would say that all in all, my blessings outweigh my trials.

I just need to remind myself of that every now and then.