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Get Out of My Way

A cancer survivor’s guide to overcoming life’s obstacles

By This Ain’t No Fairytale Published about a year ago Updated about a year ago 7 min read
MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

Obstacles and roadblocks are placed in our lives by circumstances and life events. Self-imposed obstacles, like negative self-talk and the limiting beliefs that we place upon ourselves for a variety of reasons, also serve as a deterrent from achieving our desires. In this piece, you’ll find my four steps to overcoming difficulties.

Beginning with a little background about myself, I grew up in an upper middle class Black family on the East Side of Austin, TX. My father was a prominent Pastor, and my mother was an elementary educator.

My father died when I was 15. Complications from lung cancer. He was born into an historically notable Black family. I spent the majority of my early childhood, being raised primarily by my paternal grandparents. My grandmother and grandfather- who were already in their mid to late eighties, back in the 70’s- took care of me every day. My grandfather, dubbed “East Austin’s Pastor”- was one of the first male role models in my life. I had three fabulous uncles. One was a psychologist. Another, the first Black Fire Captain in Texas. My uncles, grandfather and father, set and kept the bar extremely high when it came to my ideas of what greatness and success looked like. They were the epitome of overcoming- particularly for that era. They exuded intellectual intelligence and perseverance. You never would’ve guessed that my grandfather was the first generation born out of slavery.

If you take a moment to consider what it took to raise my Uncle Ray- the man who would become one of the first three Black firefighters hired in Austin, and the first Black Fire Captain in the entire state of Texas, particularly during the racial climate of the 60’s- and then understand I was raised by these exact same people, you begin to develop a little insight into how and why much of my fortitude is inherent. My ability to go against the grain, rise above, and rebel against the norm are innate. I don’t have failure written in my DNA. (I’ll delve more into genetic factors, as I address Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome in a later writing.) I was nurtured and cultivated in an environment that surrounded me with greatness, and greatness was expected of me.

Some people look at me and draw the conclusion that I’m “superhuman” based upon the extreme struggles life has presented me. I’m nowhere near being superhuman. Resilience, to me, is like a muscle that must be exercised, in order to be utilized. Life throws us a variety of resiliency workout routines, by way of obstacles and roadblocks, that test our beliefs and limits. It’s important not to become comfortable and complacent by giving up, and falling into the same continuous workout regimen, reaching a resiliency plateau. Obstacles force you to switch things up, in order to achieve lasting results. This is my mindset and approach to life’s setbacks and roadblocks. Once we accept the reality of what is, we are then able to shape, bend, mold, transform- or manifest- what will become.

Finding out that I had an incurable form of cancer was absolutely devastating news, yet it didn’t come as a surprise, because I’d been sick for three years prior to receiving an accurate diagnosis. I didn’t go into shock. Instead, it was a call to action. It was a red flag that there was a huge imbalance in my life that I’d been ignoring. I didn’t crawl in a corner to wither away and die- I fought back by advocating for myself, and changing a ton of things like my surroundings and environment, diet, exercise, relationships- both platonic and romantic. I’ve fired multiple oncologists and other doctors along this journey towards healing my mind and body. I’ve done more research, and understand more medical terminology, biology, and genetics than the average lay person. The fact I attended a Magnet Science program in high school, where genetics was my main point of interest, is also not lost on me. Working Punnet squares was so intriguing to me, that it became like a game. In reality, it was part of my cross-country training for this marathon called my life. My goal simply was to cross the finish line- it didn’t matter where I placed, as long as I got to the other side. Which brings up another point I cannot stress enough- sometimes it’s not about coming in first place. Sometimes winning simply requires your completion of the process, in your own time, rather than it being a competition. Remember, this is about you, and no one else. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Step One

Step one is acknowledging reality. Speak the unbridled truth about your situation as it is- not how it coulda, shoulda, woulda been- but how it is. State the facts only; In my instance, I acknowledged I had two rogue cells wreaking havoc on my blood and bone marrow by replicating themselves over and over, crowding out normal infection fighting cells to the point they stopped producing. I was also a single mother, with two school-aged children, and very little support, in a brand new city. Those were the facts.

Step Two

The second step involves visualizing what the desired outcome is like. What does your desired future look like to you? It doesn’t matter what it looks like to everyone else. Stay positive at all times- even when things look bleak. Focus on yourself. You only need to be interested in your own visualization of the outcome. What other people think, is literally none of your business, and you must be about the business of creating the outcome you want. What does the future smell like? What does it taste like? How does it feel on your skin? How about in your heart? Sit in that moment of visualization. Concentrate on involving all five senses when you visualize the desired outcome. It’s all about mastering a mind game, where imagination is the key to your success. Initially, in 2013, I was misdiagnosed and given four years to live. At one point, I sat still, and visualized watching my then 11-year-old daughter crossing the stage to get her high school diploma. June 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, I watched my daughter cross the stage. More importantly, it was three years after I was slated to die, and I had achieved partial spontaneous remission- no longer required to take chemotherapy, which was supposed to be indefinite part of my life.

Step Three

Third, take note of the necessary steps to achieve said desired outcome. Jot down, step by step, what needs to be done to achieve a new reality. This requires some research and you may have to Google “How to…” and whatever your desired outcome is. In the instance of my rare incurable cancer, I googled Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia, and found the physician who discovered the rare disease, was still alive and practicing. He willingly corresponded via email and phone calls- both with me, and my oncology team. Together we were able to create a treatment plan that would allow my condition to stabilize. That meant I would be around for my kids, and ultimately grandkids.

Step Four

Last, is the most important step. All of your work to this point will be for naught if you skip this step; Implementation and follow-through are key components. Sounds really simple, but this is actually the hardest step in the process. You must be consistent, and show up for your goals every single day. There are absolutely no days off. Your plan has to be worked until it habitually becomes second nature, as you can only build momentum and endurance, over time and with repetition. It requires grounding of the mind, body and spirit. Much of our lives are about alchemy. For example, collective prayer brings about change, by raising the energetic vibration around a specific situation.

Though I no longer subscribe to modern-day organized religion, the basis of most of them is having faith. Holding fast to the belief that universally, things work in your favor, is a major commponent of alchemy. The Biblical quotes “ask and ye shall receive” and “faith without works is dead” are simple statements that serve as bullet points for my philosophy towards living the life of my dreams. Remember to first, assess and acknowledge your current state of reality. Visualize your desired outcome beyond the obstacle. Calculate the steps required to take you from Point A to B, then put a plan into action. Remember, you’ve got to plan your work and work your plan. Every single day, until it becomes a habit- just like muscle memory with exercise. You must put energy into implementing your plan of action daily.

Goals without actions are called dreams. Every single day, I am working towards making my dreams reality.


About the Creator

This Ain’t No Fairytale

Akaimi Davis, born and raised in Austin, Texas, is a creative at heart. Through her creative lens, she explores themes of life + culture as a female BIPOC. You may find + follow her work on IG: @akaimi.the.artist and @this.aintnofairytale

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