real life

"Only have the best people around you." What almost dying taught me about really living.

Last year was for sure the most challenging of my life: A lymphoma diagnosis, chemo, IVF… you know, not your usual bucket-list stuff.

Once I was through it all, the question that came up from friends and strangers time and time again was, ‘What did you learn? How has it changed you?’ Like suddenly I might have the answer to the meaning of life.

Well, cancer has a bloody good way of getting you to focus on the most important things in life. I mean next time I think I’ll do a yoga retreat in Bali… but yeah, cancer works too.

When Briony Benjamin got sick no one listened. Post continues after podcast. 

I don’t profess to have all the answers but on reflection, this is what I took away from the whole whirlwind.

Only have the best people around you.

Seriously, you have to ditch anyone that doesn’t bring value to your life. Distance yourself from people that don’t lift you up, love you, make your heart soar and bring out the absolute best in you. Life is too short. I can guarantee that when the sh*t hits the fan and you really need someone, the fair-weather friends will not be there. If you don’t feel like you have people like that in your life yet, go find them. Go volunteer, get involved with your community, join a sports team, they’ll be out there. In summary, surround yourself with legends.

Treat the most important people in your life like they are the most important people in your life.

That is all.

Be bold with your life.

We get so worried about what people think about us. The reality is most people are so busy worrying about what people think of them that they don’t have a lot of time to really worry about what you’re up to anyway. And the worst-case scenario in most situations is not actually as bad as we imagine in our heads. Recently I worked up the courage to tell a guy I’d liked for ages that I liked him. I thought, ‘This isn’t as scary as the first day of chemo’ and it turns out he felt the same way. So think of the worst-case scenario. Your pride is hurt, someone thinks you’re weird? Who actually cares?

Enjoy the little things.

I’ve realised that a big life is made up of little moments, but if you don’t take notice of them you just might miss your whole life. There are moments passing you by today that in years to come you would give anything to come back to. Chats with a loved one who is no longer here, enjoying your body for everything it can do right now, a beautiful sunny day.

Briony Benjamin shares her story below. Post continues after video.

Ageing is a luxury.

We can be so harsh on ourselves and our bodies and so concerned about the signs of ageing. But ageing really is a luxury that is denied to so many. How often do we stop and obsess about the things we love about our body and what it allows us to do? It’s our greatest tool and instrument and the only place we have to live. Love it, listen to it and then do as it says and if it doesn’t feel right keep seeking answers from medical professionals.

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Don’t give advice.

Unless someone specifically asks for advice, don’t give it, no one really wants it. Normally people just want someone to listen to them. Most people have the answers themselves, often they just need a sounding board.

Things don’t matter.

We’re not taking anything with us when we leave. Spending our money and energy acquiring things to impress people we don’t even like, it’s just not worth it. Moments, experiences, music, laughter, times spent with those we love, that’s the stuff that matters.

Leave the world better than when you found it.

Or what is the point in any of this? Imagine if we had millions of people trying to make everything incrementally better. That would be a pretty awesome place. This experience has firmed my resolve to enjoy my life whilst making time to create impact and change.

Always be kinder than necessary.

This was me three weeks into chemo.

 

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This was me 3 weeks into chemo, the day I chopped off my hair. Maybe not exactly the image you have in mind when you think of someone riddled with Stage 4 Lymphoma. But that’s the thing about something like Lymphoma, it can be hard to spot. I had no visible lump but I had night sweats – a cough and just felt rotten and tired all the time. That’s why it’s so important to listen to your body. . How is it feeling today? What is it trying to tell you? Have you given it enough love today? Enough water, enough sleep? Have you stretched it out and given it deep calming breaths? . I know I haven’t. And now it’s saying – hey I’m tired, I’m sore, hey remember me? . Things I might have ignored some time ago or taken a Panadol to ease I now think – what is my body asking me for? What is my life vessel and most precious gift needing? . I’ve taken a photo every day through chemo and recovery and I’ll share it soon in a short video (although it’s a little scary) I think it’s important to share to show that even the most challenging circumstances can pass and there are beautiful, bright times ahead. . Thank you to the beautiful @gailpollard__ who could not have been more beautiful with me the day I had to cut my hair xx

A post shared by Briony B | Video Producer (@briony_benjamin) on

You literally never know what anyone is going through. We’re so quick to judge (hey, I still do it all the time) but that’s why I think it’s always good to be a little kinder than necessary.

Have a damn good time.

This is not a dress rehearsal, this is our life. This is the one precious, magical life that we are gifted. This is it. Enjoy this day, enjoy this moment. It’s all we have. Any of us could die tomorrow. So hold your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you and have a damn good time.

Briony was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. Symptoms can include night sweats, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, persistent cough & itchy skin. (She has since made a full recovery and is in remission.)

You can find more about Briony and follow her video mischief-making adventures on her Facebook or Instagram  

For more information on Lymphoma, please visit the Lymphoma Australia or The Leukaemia Foundation website.

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