5 Things I Learned from Having Cancer - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


5 Things I Learned from Having Cancer


Not everyone is lucky enough to get –and beat– cancer in their early 30’s. Sound like a strange thing to say? I don’t think it is. Let me explain why.

I’d been feeling low-energy for a few months, and had been getting crazy 4-day-long crippling migraines. That, coupled with an itchy rash that kept me up all night scratching, had me feeling like I was in my early 80’s, not my early 30’s. I went to see doctor after doctor who prescribed various pharmaceuticals that did nothing to make me feel better — or only helped temporarily. Two doctors even insisted that I had “chronic Lyme Disease” and tried to get me to go on aggressive courses of antibiotics (which I declined, I’m happy to say).

5 Things I Learned from Having Cancer

Me, getting yet another round of tests

Finally, I learned that I’d have to take my health into my own hands if I was to get better, and I started doing a ton of online research. I’d like to say it was me who figured out that I had cancer, but it was, in fact, my mother’s startlingly effective research skills that cracked this case and started me on my long journey of recovery.

Here are five reasons why –although having cancer was certainly a harrowing experience not only for me, but for my family– I actually feel lucky to have gone through it:

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.


  1. Jenny Garett

    If ever you will notice and detect signs of cancer you must immediately consult a doctor for treatment.

  2. Hazel Collins

    Thank you for sharing your story with us!
    When you notice symptoms, consult and seek medical help from experts and ask for treatments. One should not ignore the signs they are experiencing and if detected early there is a big chance of treatment and preventing it to worsen. Also a person who also have klinefer syndrome, which is a rare genetic condition can lead to gynecomastia and also increase a man’s risk of getting breast cancer. Breast Cancer is a malignant tumor which starts from cells in their breasts (group of cells that may expanse and invade into its surrounding tissues and other body parts) Yes breast cancer is mostly seen at women, but men can have it too. And for some they do not realize that they already have it because they ignored the symptoms.

  3. Wendy Hearn

    Cancer makes u a better person, u feel the pain of others, u meet new people who r in the same boat, they inspire u and u inspire them just try to give them hope that will make YOU feel much better when u see them smile because u gave them positive energy.

  4. Melani Kalev

    Thank you for sharing your personal story! And well done you and your mother having done the necessary research. Glad to have you with us!

  5. Having a positive attitude about life is crucial even through hard times. I enjoyed reading about your journey because I think we all are connected when it comes to prevailing hardship. Thank you for this piece; you inspired me to make health more of a priority 🙂

  6. Please share! This bill, if passed, will make deadly chemicals impossible for states to ban, and will deregulate toxic chemicals. It’s super dangerous for YOU, me, and those we love! #RealChemicalReform Here’s the petition:
    and The Rachel Maddow Show’s awesome coverage: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/chemical-lobbyist-caught-drafting-new-law-414698563573

  7. There’s a very cool woman who made a bunch of cards for people to give to their friend who has cancer. They’re brilliant, and her story is touching: http://info.emilymcdowell.com/empathy-cards-for-serious-illness/

  8. Sounds like a harrowing experience, but you took it the best way possible. What a great outlook on life. You should be able to sail through if you continue to think like that!

  9. Jill Jones

    It is always inspiring to read of someone taking something so many see as ‘negative’ and finding the positives within it. So much of what we experience, depends on the choices we make about how to respond and keep responding as we step forwards. You show this wonderfully. I studied for a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology a few years ago and learned of an interesting phenomenon called ‘post traumatic growth’. It has been found that many people actually experience a period of enhanced growth in their lives in response to a trauma, rather than the opposite. I found this extremely ‘hope-giving’ for everyone. The more individuals (like you) that can demonstrate and share a positive response to something usually perceived negatively, the better. It helps more and more people understand it is possible and they can create improved experiences for themselves, should they ever encounter a similar challenge. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    • Thank you so much for the comment! There’s a great book called Antifragile, which is all about the concept of getting stronger through pain and adversity. It’s definitely a practice… but very much life-enhancing (and lengthening!) 🙂 xo

  10. I’m glad you’ve handled it well, Hilary! I’ve lost some friends to cancer. And I also know a lot who were able to fight it and live normal and healthy afterward. I must say you’re doing great. People are supporting you, stay strong 🙂

  11. Sarah Evanston

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been following your writing for years now and you’re a true inspiration. Thanks for being such an honest writer!

    • Thank you! I hope that writing about important issues and being honest about my experiences will help remove the stigma about things like cancer. I’m not ashamed to have been sick — I see it as a positive, so maybe after reading this, others will too 🙂

      • Francis Woods

        Hilary – It certainly made me think twice about the hard things I’ve been through. Thanks for the new perspective!

  12. I really appreciate that you had the courage to write this article, instead of keeping this private. I think you’ll be an inspiration for anyone who’s had cancer or had something bad happen to them. Kudos!

  13. It’s really crazy how many young people are getting cancer these days. Make’s you wonder what the cause is. My guess is it’s a combination of toxins in the air, water, and food we eat. Who knows, maybe it’s all the wifi hot spots. So hard to know how to avoid the dangers out there. Thanks for writing this, it’s a great reminder how careful/smart we have to be these days to protect ourselves. Soldier on!

    • Yes! I was shocked to find out how many other young people I know have or had cancer. People generally don’t talk about it until you bring it up… Even my cat sitter, who’s in her 20’s, has been living with cancer.

  14. There are a number of natural things out there that have been researched for decades that are effective with cancer as well as other things and for bringing your body back to normal afterwards. One of the best is DDW. Check out the Docs web site if you like. http://www.hyd.hu/en

  15. Nicole Dyk

    I very much identify with your article, having lived through a similar experience in my late 20’s. 30 years later those experience still positively shape my everyday. Maybe now even more than ever. Thank you for inspiring others to see their own silver linings and to take initiatives in their own healthcare / WellCare.

  16. Hannah Mayers

    That must have been an intense experience!! Holy cow – to think you’re dying. And that young… I keep hearing about young people getting cancer, but it’s interesting to read your story and what you got out of it. Now if I could only find some sort of positive lesson or something from the experience of breaking up with the ‘love of my life’… easier said than done…ug!

  17. Gabby Williams

    It’s so inspiring to read that you went through that and came out the other side stronger. I wish I had that kind of spirit! You’re making me think twice about a lot of things in my life though… Not many articles have had this much of an impact on me. So, thanks.

    • My hope is that sharing my experience will to help others have an easier time getting through hardship.

  18. Wow. I can’t imagine the shock of finding out your have cancer. What an uplifting article. It’s amazing that you were able to go through something so tough and get these empowering lessons from it. The world needs more people to think that way!

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