I had a mastectomy the day after I turned 28, and I was convinced there wouldn't be many more birthdays after that. I was scared that I'd never hit 30—but I did, and then 40. I survived my cancer not because I'm a positive-thinking person but because I found my lump early and my chemo worked. It's an awful disease, and for me, it's always a shadow, lurking. Some survivors call their cancer a gift. I certainly don't. There are far less scary ways to gain wisdom. But it did make me rethink my life, and it brought me face-to-face with the importance of being right here, right now. Here are the biggest lessons I learned about what truly matters. — Geralyn Lucas, 47, author of "Then Came Life," out this month.
Don't Work Too Hard
What my heroes—my oncology nurses—always said was true: No one on her deathbed wishes she'd spent more time at the office.
Appreciate Your Body
When you look in the mirror, promise to see your courage and beauty—not your defects. When I look at myself now, I first notice my eyes, not my mastectomy scar.
Expect Good Things
Sometimes a horrible thing, like a cancer diagnosis, can happen unexpectedly. But remember this: Just as often, amazing things happen unexpectedly, too.
Make a "Purse List"
I hate the term bucket list, so I'm calling mine a purse list. What to put on yours? Anything you've always wanted to try but haven't because you're too afraid. Go for all of it.
Be Really Nice to Your Mom
I measure my years alive by my kids' ages. One is 15. She and I drive each other crazy; my mom says I was worse. Sorry, Mom. I love you. It's never too late to repair any relationship.
Drink Champagne More Often
It became my signature drink after cancer. When anyone asks me what I'm celebrating, I just smile and say, "Life."