Seasoned Survivor

Valerie Anne Burns
4 min readOct 22, 2023


In the beginning of my breast cancer journey -2014

Those who have known me for any length of time would say that I am a consummate survivor. Since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I have been reflecting on celebrating my 10-year mark. I was diagnosed July 2013 resulting in a radical double mastectomy and then through the complications that spun me into a medical vortex that brought me all the way to January 2020 for my 9th and final surgery. A decade has flown by so

fast it has truly taken my breath away. I look back to a hazy, painful period and marvel at the fact that I somehow survived. Most of us swim with the tide whether high or low and find a way to survive. Time races by and sometimes we need to reflect on what we’ve accomplished no matter how grand or small.

As someone pointed out to me recently, we do not remind ourselves of our value and worth on a regular basis. I am particularly guilty of this. Especially when I’m in overwhelm and bombarded with hurdles, I see my failures more than accomplishments. Do you have a practice to remind you of your value in the world? For many of us spinning on this fragile planet, it only takes psychology 101 to see our unworthiness(more so with women) as a result of an imprint when we are in our formative years. On my personal path, it has been a lifetime of work to erase that imprint.

Regardless of the thousands of books, spiritual teachings, bumper stickers for God’s sake, and TV shows dedicated to the almighty affirmations of : “I am enough”, “I am worthy”, “I am valuable”, “I am worthy of love”, etc., it is still a tough one to wholly and consistently embody. I am too often more inclined to default to the unworthy place and, at times, experience feeling lost, an outsider, and left behind. Oprah would not approve. And I am no longer 20-something with a naive excuse. More than half my life is behind me, and I am still working at the pursuit of evolvement.

I am thankful and recognize (after a meeting with writers today) that I must give myself credit where credit is due. Despite the challenges, I’ve managed to reinvent myself as a writer, wrote a memoir over several years time during my cancer ordeal and beyond, took classes (one class per 4-month semester) consistently for three years and earned a certificate diploma in creative writing (in 10% honor system), published 9 times, and traveled with my workshop to Italy and the Dominican Republic. The icing on the cake was being sent to Rome to write by the same nonprofit last year.

That said, there have been some rough blows as a writer. I still haven’t developed the thick skin needed to take the many rejections that come with the territory. Somehow the rejections carry so much more weight than the acceptances. I am forever faced with a reoccurring crossroads. But a crossroad can inspire reinvention.

While I contemplate daily success at feeling a strong self-worth, enough, or worthy of love, it’s not something I wake up with everyday. Admittedly, shame can find a way of sneaking in and that is one of those pesty ingrained beliefs from long ago. Some things take a lifetime to achieve or maybe by the next lifetime.

I have survived cancer twice. Breast cancer strikes millions of women worldwide. It can be a different journey and protocol depending on the diagnosis. But most of us end up with PTSD or triggered in a variety of ways by something as simple as a rejection, check-up, blood work from an Oncologist, walking into a hospital or a combination of a variety of things. I’ve become extra sensitive to loud noise, big crowds, and experience more intense claustrophobia that I developed

as a small child when my own mother passed of breast cancer when I was a toddler. After attending the retreats with, I’ve noticed that survivors thrive around other survivors who understand what it’s like. It’s never really altogether over. Fear of reoccurrence lingers. I recommend seeking support of loving and like-minded people when you are faced with any type of life-threatening illness, loss, or personal crisis that enters your life.

Feel free to contact me to express comments on your own worth or survivor journey.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy autumn. You are enough and you are worthy of all good things! May your path forward be a golden bridge of abundance, vitality, serenity, joy, love, and beauty.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne



Valerie Anne Burns

Author of Caution: Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter”; Blogger; Breast Cancer Survivor; Hollywood Survivor; Workshop Leader; & Beauty Seeker.