What Women Need but Might Speed Past: Noticing

Mental Health Prioritizer Krista Willis

What was vital to Krista’s battle with breast cancer? Good habits for her mental health.

The fall harvest season used to feel so hectic for me. It’s definitely the busiest season we have as farmers. But it feels very different to me now. 

I was diagnosed in 2015 with stage four breast cancer. Five years later, I wrapped up my treatments during the fall harvest season. That gives me a new appreciation for this time of year. I got to ring the bell at my last chemo appointment in the fall. I finished up radiation during the fall. And my hair started to grow back in the fall.

When I think back, I recognize that the number one thing that was vital to my survival was my mental health. When I was diagnosed, I felt depressed. There are some habits I developed during my treatment years that helped me to take care of myself mentally. They are so effective that I’ve continued them to this day. 

First, in the evenings I would take time to relax and count my blessings. I started to journal three good things that happened that day. Sometimes it was as simple as feeling warm sunshine on my face or to say “the crop is looking good.” The cancer and treatments meant being awake often in the middle of the night. So I’d notice the beauty of the night sky and the moon. Staying positive, which was not easy for me during that time, helped with my treatment and recovery. 

Second, I had to let people help me. Honestly, that was a tough one. As a woman, I try to do everything myself. I feel guilty if I have people helping me. But I really needed it. My sister-in-law came in and did my daughter’s high school graduation party for me. Friends handled my garden in front of the house. Family members drove me to doctor’s appointments. Even today I recognize that it’s not easy for me to let people do things for me! But I see the importance of having a community around me. Now I know how positive it is to allow someone else to do things and to appreciate them for doing it.

Third, I actually schedule downtime on our calendar. This mindset helps me to take in the things around me instead of getting caught up in my to-do list. Just two days ago we had a hawk and an eagle perched out on a hill overlooking a meadow on our land. We could see them both and imagined that there must’ve been something out there worth looking at for them. I might not have noticed that all those years ago. 

Today, especially during harvest, I know how good these things are for me. Thankfully, breast cancer is no longer the first thing I think about in the morning or the last thing I think about at night.