Life is too short to be a perfectionist

Mon histoire avec le cancer pour le site communautaire I had cancer. My story with cancer for the I had Cancer community website.

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Before being diagnosed with cancer, Florence was a 20-something year old French girl living the American dream and focused on perfection. After cancer caused everything to change, she learned to let go of perfection and love her new life. 

When I arrived in San Francisco, I was a shy and naïve 22-year old French girl who dreamed of a perfect life. I always had a smile on my face and loved being a “foreigner” in a new country. I finished law school and got a job. Along the way, I made new friends and fell in love. After 9 years in California, I had it all. I just did not know it then.

Call it the American dream syndrome maybe but I kept wanting more. Always more. The next step was to have kids, move to a nice house and get a dog. I had big dreams and everything seemed possible, but life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next, I know it now. In a matter of just a few days, my world came crushing down.

Cancer.

I was in my thirties. I was fit, ran 10k, and took kickboxing each week. I had never smoked a cigarette in my life, drank moderately and ate relatively healthy. How on earth could I have cancer?

For the perfectionist that I was, this diagnosis caused havoc in my life and I had to learn to let go of everything I thought I knew. For a year, I obediently followed doctors’ orders, living only one day at a time, trying to find one thing to look forward to each morning to distract from the side effects of treatment.

I lost my hair, my nails, my fertility and a few friends I counted as my closest. That was hard! But through it all, I managed to keep my spirits up. I was scared and had bad days but somehow I always believed I would win that fight. And while a lot of my compatriots tend to see the glass half empty, I now see it as half full.

This positive attitude, conditioned by my time in California, made me realize how lucky I was and I have grown incredibly grateful ever since. Grateful for the doctors who saved my life, for the nurses who made me laugh during chemo sessions and for the therapists who eased my pain. But grateful also for being alive today.I got to fulfill dreams I thought were unattainable for a girl like me, who until moving to San Francisco had some serious self-confidence issues.

Obviously getting a cancer was anything but a pleasant experience. Nonetheless, it was a life-changing lesson. I have way less options than before, that’s for sure, but I am okay with it. I strongly believe I still have much more to accomplish but I am taking my time now. What must happen will happen, and I no longer make long-term plans or worry about things I cannot control. I have accepted my scars, my weaknesses and my own limitations. Life is not perfect and the new one I am building for myself is far different from the one I was dreaming of when I was 20- but that doesn’t matter anymore.

My time in California – a time of innocence and self-discovery – is now behind me and it is bitter sweet. But I am healthy again and for as long as I can will cherish those memories and this imperfect, yet wonderful, life of mine. As we say in French: “La vie est belle!”

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