There is something about being chronically sick and told you're essentially "a ticking time bomb" that really helps to put things into perspective.
When I was first diagnosed with FAP in 2010 (I was 19), I was told that I wouldn't be at risk of bowel cancer until I was 30. It made me realise just how much I wanted to do and achieve while I still could.
Then in late 2012, I found out the polyps in my bowel were turning cancerous and that I only had a matter of months to act and have all of my bowel removed. You would think that this would cause more of an alarm and prompt me to want to do a lot more with my life, but as the bowel cancer risk was removed, I naively thought that my risk of cancer would be removed and I could get on with my life..
But boy was I wrong.... My cancer journey didn't end there. In fact, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year too which thankfully was successfully removed in April while it was still in the stage I phase, remained contained within my thyroid meaning it hadn't reached nearby neck tissues.
It wasn't until a year ago that I had this drive and motivation to want to do everything I have ever only imagined in day dreams, was re-ignited and has been a continual driving force (and distraction this past year). It made me realise that while I was content with my life and my accomplishments so far, that I didn't feel entirely happy, and I knew that there was more I wanted to do and see.
So I decided I would write a happy list, as opposed to a bucket list for one of two reasons: 1. it sounded more positive than saying bucket list
and 2. it would be a list of things I want to do, that would truly make me happy within myself.
To put it bluntly, when I was first diagnosed with FAP my doctors said that they "hope that you don't develop desmoid tumours... if it isn't the cancer from the FAP that kills you the desmoid tumours will".
So while I am only 24, I have come to terms with the fact that this condition will kill me, I just don't know when. Some doctors mentioned up to a year if the tumours continue to grow at the rate they currently are (thankfully last lost of treatment is keeping them at bay and no new growth) but others have said 5-6 years.
So it helps me to have a list of things that I want to do, that will make me happy but also offer my life more meaning. My 5 reasons for having a happy list as opposed to a bucket list is:
It was a no brainer that happiness be one of my reasons for wanting to have a happy list, as the word happy was in the title of it. Now, I'm not saying I'm not happy at the moment because I am but I want to be more happy.
For me a big part of my happiness has always been results driven and I am more happier when I feel like I have accomplished something, which brings me to my next point.
#2. Sense of accomplishment and fulfilment (purpose/direction)
My husband always seems to be getting cranky at my when I mention how I feel like I haven't accomplished much and want to have more of a purpose or direction of where my life is headed. The comparison thief plays a big part of this, but no matter what I do or try to do I still feel that I need to do more and often meaning bigger things.
And this has only gotten worse over the last year as there is still so much that I want to see and do and I don't know how to achieve it all. I want to die knowing that I made the most out of every day and I want others to see me as this amazing and successful person as opposed to "that girl that was really sick".
I want to be known as more than what my illness defines me as, as I am so much more than that girl that's really sick. But I also don't want my family or friends to say I was a lousy person because sometimes I was too unwell to make it to social events.
#3. Is more empowering and motivating
I find having a happy list helps me to feel more positive and optimistic about my future plans, as opposed to being depressed at the thought that I want to do things because I could die.
For me it is more empowering to see it as a positive of things I have dreamed of, and motivating to help me want to do it. I find other's are more accepting of my happy list of things to see and do as opposed to it being my bucket list.. which brings me to #4.
#4. Offers inclusion of others
Through being more positive about things I want to do and especially things that involve others (like my family and friends), I find they are wanting to join in and get excited about the activity or goal at hand, as opposed to being depressed that I am only wanting to do these things as I might die.
I also find that through having a happy list and being more positively about things that I hope this helps my family to remember the times shared and make memories with me and link these memories with happiness and fulfilment rather than sadness and loss.
#5. Works as a distraction
If I said it was easy knowing you have a chronic illness that can kill you is easy, I would be telling a major fib... and that isn't what my blog is about! Some days it can be extremely hard when I have new progression or diagnosis' or travelling the 16 hour round trip to see specialists in Sydney. Some days it can be too much and I easily feel overwhelmed, and not wanting to get out of bed to face the world.
But I find that my happy list serves as a distraction tool, and while I don't think I can ever completely forget the reality I am faced with every day, I can use my energy to focus more on the things that are important to me and that I want to see/do... and for me keeping busy is the ultimate distraction and one of the many coping mechanism I have.
Things on my happy list include (in no particular order):
☐ Being tumour free ☑ Have confidence to be the real me and show others who I am
☐ Finishing a counselling course ☑ Making a difference to someone's life
☐ Writing a book and telling my story
☐ Come up with a kick-ass start up idea ☑ Win an award
☑ Have my product in a national newspaper
☐ Travel around Australia ☑ Have my own house ☐ Have a Japanese garden where I can escape my reality ☑ Get a kitten preferably a Ragdoll
☐ Have an office where I can be inspired to write and create
☑ Go on an all expenses paid business trip for my blogging ☑ Do motivational speaking
☐ Be an entrepreneur and make at least $100k in one year
☐ Become a successful blogger, so successful and influential that I would be given a car (if not free, at a huge discount) ☑ To have a family and my husband to have a child of his own
☑ Have a celebrity receive a product you made (Ellen received one of my Santa Keys last year!!)
☐ Being there for my siblings when they need me
☐ Reaching 1 million views on my Made With Love-Cards and Crafts blog (currently at 390k)
☐ Reaching 500k views on Feeling Ostomistic (currently at 285k)
☐ Have my own magazine column ☑ Start an online magazine
☐ Start a Not For Profit
☐ Do something newsworthy
☐ Lose a lot of weight, and be healthy enough to start exercising
☐ Become rich enough to have someone cook for me and drive me around
☐ Finish a university degree
☐ Go on a cruise ☐ Travel the Great Ocean Road (Melbourne- Adelaide)
☐ Travel to Kangaroo Island
☐ Vist Tasmania
☐ Visit the Pink lake in WA
☐ See a sunset from the West Coast
☐ Visit Coober Pedy
☐ Learn photography
☐ Meet Ellen Degeneres
☐ Have my own TV show making crafts... be the next Martha Stewart (without being in prison)
☐ Write for a big blog
I know some of these may sound over the top, and I admit they are but if you're going to dream you might as well dream big as well as being realistic... now if I could just find the next multimillion dollar idea, I will be well on my way to taking over the world (not quite literal).
So tell me, do you have a happy list and what is one thing you want to mark off your list? Feel free to comment below.
This is a really empowering and positive way to think of what you want to achieve in your lifetime. I love the idea of a happy list! And boy you have a lot on your list, but I am sure you can do it! I want to travel around Australia too!