Breathing is one of our many instinctual actions at birth. Our body systems automatically synchronize in perfect unison to produce one simple breath. Although the biological explanation is complicated, for the most part breathing is an unconscious and easy task to perform. However, the frequency of our breath can change with each emotion, movement, and stressful situation we face. In moments of fear or surprise, we gasp in a deep breath of air. In moments of sorrow, finding a breath sometimes feels like an never ending marathon. Breathing is a pretty simple pattern that can drastically change in the absence of our control.

After being dealt a consistent flow of anger, sadness, and confusion for ten months.. breathing has literally and figuratively saved my life. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the strong, smiley, and unstoppable person you’re used to seeing. I have my moments of weakness, because I’m human. It is in these moments, when I feel like my world is collapsing, that I simply remember to breathe.

I’m not talking about little, shallow, infant-like breaths. When you feel like the world is against you and nothing else could go wrong, try taking three long, deep, and desperate breaths… I think you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel. Obviously this won’t solve all your problems and kiss your sorrows goodbye. BUT, I can promise that it will calm you down and allow you to regroup your thoughts.

Our strength is tested by the reaction we have to adversity. I know if my mind is filled with negative emotions, it completely masks my ability to rationally handle a situation. Instead of turning to anger, sadness, or denial… take a moment to breathe, calm your emotions, and focus your mind on finding the strength you need to overcome the crappy hand that life has given you at the moment.

Not only did this help me throughout my treatment, but I know it will continue to help me in the future. Although cancer does not define who I am, it has obviously altered my ‘normal.’ There are still many reasons why I need to remain patient with my life. I have to be patient for my hair to grow back, I have to be patient for the nerves in my feet to fully regenerate, and most importantly I have to be patient with my body to recover from being internally mauled by a bear. I know I will still experience these moments, and I’m thankful that I’ve found the simple task of breathing to help me. It may sound strange, but the next time you find yourself in a cloud of negativity…give it a try.

I started this journey with a breath of fear. Now, while walking across the Virginia Tech Drillfield, a smile consumes my face followed by a huge sigh of relief…I did it. I can finally continue living my life instead of just surviving.