Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
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Finding My New Normal

megan.jpgIt was 2015, and I felt as though my life was just beginning. I had secured, what I thought to be, my dream job in corporate retail. I was in a new relationship. I was meeting new people and creating a wonderful social circle. I had moved into my own apartment, and was out on my own for the very first time. Feeling on cloud nine, I could see my future blooming into everything I wanted and more, until one day, I felt a lump in my breast. I had just turned 26 and although I didn't have family history, I decided to get it checked out. After a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy, I received a call from a nurse telling me I tested positive for invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer.

My life quickly became a series of doctors appointments, bloodwork, and scans. Within a few weeks from my diagnosis, I was rolled into an operating room to have a bilateral mastectomy. Soon after, I learned I had an advanced stage of breast cancer. With an aggressive cancer, came an aggressive treatment plan with a series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Everything was changing rapidly and I felt as if I had lost total control of my life. The one thing I could control was keeping a positive perspective on life. This was just a chapter in my life that would soon come to an end, I was sure of it. 

One year after my diagnosis I was in remission and ready for my next chapter. I wanted a fresh start, so I moved my life from Milwaukee to Chicago. New city, new job, new friends and living with my boyfriend of three years for the first time, I was feeling back on cloud nine. But with the move came a new team of doctors who had a new perspective on my diagnosis and even more treatments, an additional year of chemotherapy. I was devastated. I wasn’t prepared for my trauma to follow me to Chicago, and it was only a matter of time before I would come crashing down. 

Every aspect of my life had changed when I moved to Chicago. It changed fast and had a serious impact on my well-being; mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I was unbalanced, unwell and in a deep state of depression causing me to be irritable to the people I loved most. I was not a happy person, nor was I happy to be around. It wasn’t until I hit my rock bottom, and almost lost the one I love dearly, that I decided it was time to focus solely on my well being, and to find my new normal. What was it going to take for me to feel balanced and well again? I wasn’t sure, but I was committed to finding out.

I moved into my own space, a lovely one-bedroom, loft style apartment, in a trendy neighborhood just outside of downtown Chicago. The first step on my wellness journey was to find a therapist. I was three years out from my cancer diagnosis and had yet to accept or grieve what I had endured. Therapy allowed me to do just that, and in a place where I felt safe. After only a few sessions, I was starting to feel a sense of peace, happiness, and gratitude. I was one year into working with my therapist, and although I was feeling more balanced in my mental and emotional systems, I still needed help in my physical and spiritual systems. 

It wasn’t easy living alone. I would often find myself bored and not knowing how to fill my time. So I started to explore new hobbies: cooking, reading, arts & crafts, cycling, fostering dogs, spending time outdoors, and traveling. I was learning more and more about myself everyday. What I liked and what I didn’t like. Still on a quest for how to connect with myself and find my purpose, I started journaling, practicing meditation and yoga, and getting outdoors, all which had a profoundly positive impact on my well being. Especially being out in nature, I learned I have a wild passion for the great outdoors. Something about being out in nature, it’s where I feel most connected to myself. I’ve learned the importance of intertwining these practices into my daily life, helping to keep me balanced and continuing on my wellness journey. 

But what about my purpose? I worked in corporate retail, climbing the corporate ladder for over a decade. Early on in my career, I found a passion for leading, coaching and mentoring colleagues. This organically spilled over into my personal life and I soon realized I enjoyed helping family, and friends get to where they wanted to be in their career or personal life. Wanting to make a bigger impact, I found an organization where I became a one-on-one mentor for cancer fighters and survivors. Providing them comfort, connection, and empathy in their darkest moments by listening, supporting and sharing my experience. This was it. This was my purpose.

Transitioning out of treatments and back into the world is extremely difficult. It’s not only something I struggled with, but I know countless others have struggled too. Feeling inspired to continue helping women impacted by breast cancer, I left my corporate career to become a certified Integrative Wellness Life Coach in 2022. My mission is to help these women find their new normal as they transition out of treatments and back into the world.

​As for my wellness journey, it’s continuous, and I’ll always be working to move my life towards balance. The work never stops, and it will continue to grow and evolve overtime. I’ve learned that what works for me now, may not work for me in the future, and that’s beautiful. Beautiful that I have so much more to unpack and discover in my lifetime, all while guiding others towards a life of balance for themselves too.