Tara Coyote is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in September 2016. She is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller “Grace, Grit and Gratitude”. She says to everyone that you are stronger than you think you are. Cancer is not easy but take it as an opportunity. Take good care of yourself and take one day at a time.
How it started
I have always had fibrocystic breasts, so it was easy to ignore various lumps and bumps that appeared through my adult life. I was one of the main caretakers for my best friend for twenty-two months as she journeyed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. During this time period, I was so focused on helping her, that I ignored my own need for self-care. About nine months after she died, I realized that I had a large lump in my left breast that was screaming for attention. As time went on, it became more tender and painful. I was forty-six years old.
Diagnosis was hard to digest
It was a traumatic day when I received a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy all within a three-hour period. Based on the doctor’s reactions during that horrifying moment, I knew something was not right. It took about a week to get the results of the biopsy. When I was diagnosed, I was told I had stage 1 breast cancer. Two weeks after that shocking phone call, I found out I was misdiagnosed, and it was actually stage 3 ER positive. This was hard news to digest.
I was shocked, but I decided to pour my energy into proactive research. I watched videos, read books, did a plethora of exploration online, and talked to others who had gone through breast cancer. It was shocking for me to comprehend why I also had a cancer diagnosis after my best friend had just tragically died at the young age of 46 from cancer. I had another very close friend/family member, also my age, who was going through a serious cancer diagnosis. I was stunned by the amount of cancer that was present in my immediate circle.
Treatment was painful
My treatment started with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. I have been journeying with late-stage cancer for five years now. Two and a half years ago I was referred to Hospice and had to face the reality of my own possible death. Throughout all of these challenges, I continually remind myself that every hard experience has occurred to aid me in my personal growth. If I embrace the challenge, rather than push it away, it can serve me in my personal transformation. If I fight the growth opportunity, then I am not fully present in the gift of the moment.
I fortunately had a great deal of experience dealing with adversity and had developed tools for coping with difficult moments. I was already trained as an ‘Equine Facilitated Learning’ teacher, which means I assisted people with their healing process through being with horses. At the time of the diagnosis, I owned a horse retreat center in Northern California, called ‘Wind Horse Sanctuary’. I would offer private sessions, group workshops and ‘Grief Rituals with Horses’ for participants to spend therapeutic time with equines. My four gorgeous horses were a tremendous comfort and support for me during this traumatic time.
When I was undergoing the rigors of cancer treatment, I kept up my non-toxic cancer healing repertoire with natural medicines. I knew that while the chemotherapy was annihilating the cancer cells, it was also affecting my immune system as well. It was vital to keep my immune system as strong as possible to keep my body balanced.
I fed myself a healthy diet, free of sugar, organic vegetables and whatever I could eat to sustain myself in a wholesome manner. I took vitamins, supplements, and strange concoctions that I learned about from extensive research about what my body needed to thrive through the rigors of treatment. It was not uncommon for friends of mine to see me traveling around with two large bags of pills and formulas designed to keep my body well.
Support from friends
I was wonderfully surprised to see that soon after the diagnosis, friends flooded me with all sorts of help, donated to my fundraiser, brought me food and showed up with a wonderful spirit of solidarity. The generous acts of kindness brought me to my knees and helped me see how much my community loved and valued me. When I broke my hip, had double hip surgery and was relegated to my bed for a long period of recovery, I was reliant on everyone for everything. It was humbling and awe inspiring to see how my friends stepped up to help me. The simple tasks of washing my dishes, giving me rides to PT, walking my dog and bringing me food reinforced the realization that I was worthy of receiving. This infusion of love from others helped me see how all the love that I had given over the years to tend to others was reflected back by these generous gestures. I am worthy of receiving.
Life is short and precious. Everything happens to me for my highest growth. Due to the fact that I have faced my death multiple times now, I truly strive to appreciate every breath I am fortunate to take. Living with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis is an abrupt wake up call to life. I don’t have the naive assumption that I will live to a ripe old age, like I did before. It is an absolute miracle that I am alive right now and I am aware that my future is not guaranteed. It is a luxury to plan one’s life out five to ten years in the future. Due to this, I strive to fully appreciate each day.
Cancer is not a death sentence
Having cancer is not a death sentence. I know many people who are defeating the odds with a late-stage cancer diagnosis. On that same note and to take it a bit farther, it is possible to live and thrive with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The sad reality of living with cancer is that, yes, you can die from the prognosis. So many friends of mine have tragically died at a young age, and I know that it is an absolute blessing that I am alive now. There are many that are beating the odds and have miraculous healing stories. I like to believe in that possibility rather than the latter.