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*stories and practices that helped me navigate breast cancer diagnosis and treatments at the age of 37. - - - - - - After my second chemotherapy, my husband had to go back to work immediately. For the past few weeks, while I was undergoing radiation, he would stay with me and work from home. That was a time, where working from home was not yet even an option, yet he was able to make arrangements with his employers and was granted flexibility with where and when he works. So you can imagine that being taken cared of and doted on for the past few weeks was a very comforting experience. Yet for that day, he had to immediately go back to the office and I was left on my own at home as the kids were also at school. I remember to this day how I was seething inside waiting for my husband to send me a SMS to ask me how I was doing. I was getting really close to rage when it suddenly dawned on me- like a brick that felt hard on my head!

“Lana, you are 37 years old and you are waiting for someone else to check in on you and ask you how you are doing???”

That realization hit me hard. It made me realize that I don’t even know how to start checking in with myself. We were never taught in school the power of checking in with ourselves. It was always geared towards others. Asking people how they are. In Filipino culture, we were trained to be deeply considerate of others. Pakundangan (deep consideration) was a term deeply ingrained in my psyche. Yet somehow I always referred it as something I show to others and not to myself. Yet there I was, bald, nauseous, the chemicals in my body doing its work and I was livid. Not with my husband who still hasn’t SMSed. I was livid with myself. I realized for the first time in my 37 years of existence, how much agency I lost by waiting for others to ask me how I am doing. As if my very existence is validated only by their acknowledgment of me and my being. So I made a pact for myself. I did what I knew was within my agency. I started to check-in with myself. At first it started as an experiment. I set alarms at 9am-12 noon and 6pm. Whenever an alarm goes of, I would stop whatever I am doing and ask myself “Lana, how are you? What are you feeling? What do you need?” That continued for a full year. A full year of re-connecting with myself. A year of listening to what my body was telling me. A year of asking myself, not anyone else, what I needed. I have gone through tough times as child, navigated my mom’s own experience with breast cancer till she died at age 49, moved out of the country, married a foreigner and had two kids, experienced changes and challenges. Yet that was the first time I started practicing the deep tuning in with myself that was not prodded by someone else. Checking-in with myself became a life practice that to this day allows me to show up with integrity and in self-fullness. ❤️ How about you, how are you really?

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