Early detection, Health & Wellness, Living beyond breast cancer


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By Dr. Shelby Terstriep

July 25, 2013

Last week was our yearly family vacation to the lake.

I love the freedom of being at the lake. Life is just simpler. It reminds me of growing up in a small town. I see my kids running free, wearing swimsuits all day, their hair un-brushed with golden highlights. There is no agenda, no sightseeing and, because of it, their creativity is bursting. They have water fights, collect seashells, fish, rollerblade, operate their own lemonade stand, build sandcastles, swim—and then swim some more! They do what they want with who they love.



My six-year-old son will go for hours and hours on the paddleboard before my husband and I even have a chance to get out of our PJs. I wonder what he thinks about and admire how he can just “be.” The water is still and crystal clear—and he is alone with just his thoughts.




My patients tell me that their cancer diagnosis is life-changing for them. They feel a renewed sense of purpose. Life is reprioritized. They have time to think about what (and who!) is important to them. These things become crystal clear.

Watching this transformation is one of the best parts of my job. It helps to teach me every day how I want to live. Bronnie Ware, a hospice worker, wrote an insightful and poignant piece about the common themes that she learned from her many years caring for dying people, which echoes what I see in people’s transformation as they face a life-threatening disease.

Bronnie Ware’s Top 5 Regrets of the Dying:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

She wrote that many people “did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.” Watching my kids all week shows they are choosing happiness each day. This is my hope for all of us.


After a week of vacation I am back: refocused, reenergized, and I will continue to choose happiness because both my kids and my patients teach me to do so.


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