Twice a year, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and on my Cancer-Versary in April, I pause to reflect back on how far I’ve come and all that I’m grateful for. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and in a clarifying moment, my life as I knew it with work, business travel and living day to day came to a standstill. Well, not on the outside, but on the inside. I was a single mom with a son who completely relied on me, I had an amazing job (I was working for Avendra then) and life was a reliable rollercoaster. I was and am a busy woman.

Just like you, I have been through all types of highs and lows, that dern rollercoaster!!!, but this hit me differently. I heard stories, I read the statistics, and I didn’t know or even worse, might not be able to control my outcome.

I will share with you that I honestly never allowed myself to believe that I was going to die. It truly never crossed my mind. My doctors and nurses would look at me a little sideways concerned when I mentioned this, like….I should consider it could happen. Ummmmm, No!

I am a planner. Like big time. And this was NOT in the plan.

I did what I needed to do during those moments. Straddling work without in-person meetings (it was pre-Covid so this really wasn’t a thing), being a mom to a college student who became my brain, enduring chemo and radiation, and it all became my new normal. And, the no-hair thing. That was hard, but not the most difficult part.

My cancer journey allowed me to appreciate so many things about my life journey. In retrospect, it wasn’t about cancer at all. It was about the rollercoaster because life really is a rollercoaster. How? Well…

  • You Get to Wait: That super long line, waiting with everyone else for this unknown but incredible thrill. Waiting in life is what allows us to be present. Sometimes we miss the now, the present day, but it’s really important not to. The moment you’re in right now can’t ever be regained. So don’t read any further, take a deep breath and have gratitude for this moment. Be grateful for everything around you. Every moment in life is important. (Seriously, take a breath.)
  • You Buckle Up for What’s to Come: You’re in the seat, the harness comes down and you make sure you and your loved ones are safe. Just like life. We create situations for ourselves and we don’t know the outcome. We hope for the best but we just don’t know. During my bout with cancer, I didn’t know the outcome but I believed in my heart and mind that it would be ok. I had to. I didn’t have another option. So that rollercoaster ride allowed me to buckle up and just go. Anything worth doing, is worth doing today. And it might just be worth doing NOW because tomorrow is an excuse.
  • There are Ups and Downs, Twists and Turns: Right? Life is all about that. Highs and Lows. Hills and Valleys. Mountains and Mole Hills. When you complain about rain, remember that without it, you wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine. When you complain about traffic, remember that without it, you might not appreciate your hair blowing in the wind when you have the top down or the windows open. What makes it all ok is how we manage the high, highs and the low, lows. Each of us has what it takes to manage this and each turn makes us stronger.
  • You Pull into the Station and It’s Over: The cars slow down, everyone sighs a bit of relief that they made it, maybe they’re laughing, cheering, clapping or catching their breath. But it ends. And we unbuckle and walk away. Life doesn’t have a play book that we get to follow from beginning to end because we don’t know when or how it will end. We owe it to ourselves, our colleagues, our family, our friends, to be the very best we can each day, to live life to the fullest when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. One day it will be different and there might not be a way to have a do-over.

In the end, this rollercoaster called cancer made me a much more present, grateful, and happy person. I try to be present to what’s important, grateful for the little things in my life and, happy. I work to make every single day count. I and present to telling my family (and my dogs) that I love them. And I even try to remain hopeful in the face of adversity. Life isn’t always perfect but I’m grateful for the rollercoaster and grateful that I’m here. 

Jill Rigsbee


iDEAL Hospitality Partners Group