52 People You Need To Meet: #9 Liz Salmi, aka The Liz Army

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What I wish I knew before my brain was diagnosed with cancer:
It can happen to anyone.

Liz Salmi

I was diagnosed with a low-grade, but malignant, brain cancer just one week after my 29th birthday. The diagnosis was like, “Happy birthday! Thirty is just around the corner, and in case you didn’t feel like an adult yet, you now have cancer!”

I used to think cancer was a disease for kids. Or older people. Or for smokers. Or overweight folks who made poor food choices. Or better yet: old, overweight smokers who ate fast food and drank 2-liters of soda on a daily basis.

So when I was diagnosed I was afraid it was my fault.

I was a healthy 29-year old. I exercised and consumed a diet rich in fruits and “good fats.” I didn’t drink alcohol and never did drugs. I was a nice person.

What did I do wrong? I asked myself.

The most frustrating part of cancer is that it doesn’t discriminate. Cancer doesn’t care for whom you voted, or to which god you choose to pray. Some of the most controversial matters humankind wastes our time fighting about are rendered meaningless in the face of a disease like cancer.

What I wish I knew before I was diagnosed is: it can happen to anyone.

When I came to that realization I was able to get rid of the weird guilty feelings that I was somehow at fault. And with guilt out of the way I was able to focus on being awesome (i.e., dealing with adversity) and putting myself in a mental space to get better.

So in the first few weeks or months after diagnosis you find yourself wondering why? or what you didn’t wrong, please know it is not your fault.

It is up to you to choose how you want to handle your cancer. My advice is to be awesome.

Editor’s note:

Liz is an awesome survivor and advocate. You can read more about her on her blog: http://thelizarmy.com/how-to/

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