This guest blog is written by Leeanna, the founder of tooktake (a simple dosage reminder system that lets you know if you took, or still need to take your prescription and over-the-counter medication and supplements). Leeanna talks about what to do when your life doesn’t go to plan – how you can adapt and continue to move forward…

Now that my daughter is in college I have had a chance to look back and think about some of the things that I told her over the years. One of the things that I have often reminded her of, is that she didn’t need to plan her whole life at 5, 10, 15, 18, 20 … years old.

When my daughter was little and people asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would take the question very seriously. After all, it’s her whole life she needs to decide for this total stranger right now in line at Target! 

She really thought that she should know! What if she made the wrong choice? What if she changed her mind? What if the six-year-old her finds out something that the 5-year-old didn’t know and now she is stuck being “a rollerskating environmentalist” forever. (the roller skates were to help her give out flyers about the environment faster). When she did think of something, she usually tried to combine her most recent interests, which was always one of my favorites. 

Being a wee bit indecisive (or perhaps more accurately, impulsive) myself, I told her what I liked to believe. And I still think it’s really good advice that I continue to follow myself.

You don’t have to be just one thing, you just need to do one thing at a time. That was such a relief for her to hear. Even now when she calls in a panic about a life-altering decision she needs to make, I remind her of this. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, so she doesn’t need to keep guessing. She can choose what seems right for her at this moment, and see what opportunities and learning come from it. 

So now it’s my turn. Breast cancer derailed things for me a bit. Well for over a year, actually. It derailed our whole family. We thought we were all set when we sold our house in California and moved to Arizona. My husband and I started our own design and branding business, it was all going well. 

Then one day it wasn’t. Well, the business was, but I wasn’t. Breast Cancer. Out of nowhere. Within a few weeks, I couldn’t work, my husband was taking care of me and trying to work and we were both doing our best to take care of our daughter and make her last year of high school fun. Or as fun as possible given the situation. 

A year later, when I was finished with treatment and we got our daughter all settled for her first year of college, my husband and I looked at each other and said: “What’s next?” What do we do now? We realized that we were kind of starting from scratch, again. 

For a while that feeling was very overwhelming, but the more we talked the more we understood what we each wanted to do next. We wanted to go back to California (our daughter was ecstatic) and through the craziness of cancer we had both found new passions. My husband had been certified as a meditation teacher used his skills to help me a ton during my chemotherapy and all the wonderful side effects, and really wanted to use those skills to help other people in all aspects of their lives. 

And I wanted to share tooktake, the dosage reminder labels that I invented during treatment, with as many people as I could. 

So there we were! Packing-up the house again, moving back to CA and starting not one, but two new businesses. It’s still pretty early in the process for both of us, and it’s definitely not easy. But we are enjoying things so far. 

So what’s the point of this blog post? One, please stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up – they have no idea – especially high school students, that question sends them into a complete internal panic. Second, when life tosses a few detours in your first plan or your second one, or your tenth, don’t panic. Don’t think “Oh no! What now? Just stop and think “Okay, what would I like to do next?”. If nothing else it’s a more positive way to frame your dilemma. 

Then see how it goes. You can always do something else. You might have to start from scratch and work your way up again. But that’s okay. Better to try new things and learn and grow than stay doing something boring or something you don’t like just because you said it’s what you wanted to do when you grew up. 

Original published on the “Ticking Off Breast Cancer” blog July 23, 2020