Until the Three Beeps

November 11, 2023

Jessica Szczepaniak-Gillece (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

Being busy is supposed to be a virtue; it seems like everyone wants to share how busy they are, there’s always a side hustle or something new. I used to be one of those busy people, but then a devastating disease forced me to discover the rewards of slowing down. This lesson changed my entire life.

Since moving to Vancouver in 2017, my life had been a whirlwind of exploring a new city, making friends and doing all the things one does when getting to know a new place. I had a business I was building, I had good health and I had something, or multiple somethings, to do every day. Everything was busy and I loved it; being busy gave my life a sense of excitement and fun.

Then one day in November 2019, I sat in my doctor’s office awaiting test results. I wasn’t worried, I was healthy and happy. The doctor stared me in the eye and announced that I had breast cancer. In that one moment, everything changed. The doctor told me that I would have to learn how to rest to help manage my disease and that the treatments would take a lot out of me. After that, everything I did felt like waiting; I did some activities with friends, but then had surgery and spent a few weeks recovering. 

I remember being frustrated at not being able to do things I wanted. My world shrank to the sofa, where I would wait, watch TV and drink tea while I waited for my lumpectomy to heal. When it did, treatment began. There was chemotherapy first, where I’d sit in a chair for hours while the nurses pumped medicine into my veins. The literature I got said that some people could enjoy chemotherapy because it was a chance to rest. To be honest, I scoffed at it, and then my first treatment happened. As the nurses got out the tubes of cherry-red chemotherapy medicine and prepped the IV tube in my hand, I suddenly couldn’t be busy. I had brought in books and music to try and make it through, but then I realized I had no choice but to surrender.

I began to engage my senses and observe around me. There were peach curtains, a window with a view of City Hall and the mountains, the soft murmur of nurses talking, the hiss or beep of a machine here and there. I slowed my breathing like my counsellor had shown me, breath by breath. I remembered that she told me the paclitaxel chemotherapy medicine came from local yew trees, and that the land itself was helping me survive. I was overcome with a feeling of peace as I waited, heard the hum of the machines and fell into a meditative state, no longer waiting impatiently, but sitting there just being. This lasted until the three beeps that informed me that my chemotherapy was done.

After that, rest became a valuable part of my life. I learned how to let things go and treat myself with tenderness and compassion. Through several more sessions of chemotherapy, then the gruelling radiation treatments, I let myself rest at last. Instead of hurrying or trying to get something in at the last minute, I allowed myself to sit down, feel what I needed to feel and sleep when I needed to. I could nourish my body and spirit and simply do like I did during that first treatment.

While cancer is in the rearview mirror for me, I am grateful for the lesson it taught me about the benefits of slowing down. I treat my time differently now and I value the pauses as much as the action. I do this by incorporating a meditation practice into my life and going to therapy. I let myself rest whenever I need to and enjoy walks with friends instead of big events. It has been a change, but it is something that feels right for me. The slower life is a little harder in some ways; I miss certain aspects of my former life, but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned along the way. It’s a process and I’m happy to be here for it.

Leave your thoughts for Jessica in the comments below. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube to stay up-to-date with Low Entropy news!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


At Low Entropy, we believe changing the world starts with changing ourselves.

Founded in 2015, Low Entropy Facilitates conversations that encourage diversity and promote inclusivity.

We understand that life can be confusing at times. It can seem challenging and sometimes you may feel like no one really “gets you.” We offer an opportunity to connect with others who have the capacity to understand you.