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Living Life with an Exclamation Point

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Mary Beth Gibson

Breast Cancer /


At Here for the Girls, our attitude is all about Living Life with an Exclamation Point (!) instead of a period. Okay, that’s great, but who are “we,” who are “the girls,” and why are we here for them? And what does punctuation have to do with it anyway? 

Well, “we” are a not-for-profit organization begun 11 years ago by two breast cancer survivors, and the “girls” are young women diagnosed with breast cancer. We are here for the girls because we recognize that young women diagnosed with that disease often experience issues much different from their more mature pink sisters and have unique needs. Our mission is to improve the lives of young women affected by breast cancer, and we offer our not-your-typical support through Beyond Boobs!, (in-person) and Pink Link (on line).

And punctuation actually has nothing to do with it other than this: Cancer has taught us to embrace life and live it enthusiastically and passionately and with exclamation! But you don’t have to have had breast cancer to live life with an exclamation point, so here are ten exclamation pointers to help explain what it’s all about.

1. Cherish – Yourself First

This is first because it all begins with YOU, and it’s like the oxygen mask on an airplane. You have to give yourself oxygen before you are able to help anyone else. Remind yourself every day how wonderful you are, and if you need help recognizing your gifts, ask your friends and family what makes you so special. Then write these things down and put them where you will see them every day, throughout the day.

2. Love – Sprinkle It Wherever You Go            

Love is the greatest power in the universe and works best when shared with others. From our very first moments on earth, we crave love. Receiving and giving love makes us better human beings. What’s the best kind of love? The kind like your dog gives you – unconditional love. It’s beneficial for both your physical and emotional health. So start by sprinkling it at home, and see how it grows from there.

3. Dare – Disown Your Comfort Zone

For some people this may mean jumping out of an airplane and for others it may mean joining a book club. What you will find is that every step you take outside of your comfort zone boosts your confidence and leads to more steps. As your comfort zone grows, so do you. So pick one thing that scares you just a little, and dare to do it!

4. Laugh – Find the Funny

“A merry heart is the best medicine,” it’s free, and you don’t need a prescription. Just the act of laughing makes you feel happy and reduces stress levels. Laughter is contagious and so is smiling. Surround yourself with positive people, don’t take yourself so seriously, and wear a big smile for a whole day to see what happens.

5. Breathe – Experience Serenity

It’s an automatic thing that we don’t give much thought, but breath is life and life is breath. That’s definitely worth our attention. Your body and mind respond on many different levels when you practice breathing exercises. Benefits include deep relaxation, feelings of peace, reduced stress, improved sleep, pain relief, more stamina, and increased self-awareness, to name a few. And all you have to do is breathe - deeply. Sign me up!

6. Sparkle – Share Your Joy

You sometimes can’t control - okay let’s be honest - you often can’t control what happens in your life, but you can control how you choose to react. Joy is a choice AND is preventative medicine. A study of nuns showed that 54 percent of the most joy filled were still alive at age 94 compared to 11 percent of those who were the least joyful. So whatever may be going on in your life, consider choosing joy and letting you and others benefit from your sparkle.

7. Power Down – Be Present

In a world dominated by technology, it might seem difficult to escape, but it’s as easy as hitting the off button and walking away – even if just for a little while. Mindfulness is the same as being present. It’s all the buzz right now, and there’s a reason. Like everything else we are talking about, it’s healthy! It’s difficult to live life with an exclamation point if you aren’t living in the moment and paying attention to what’s all around you. Be.Here.Now.

8. Forgive – Everyone, Everything

… as fast as you can. Resentments and negative energy grows when fueled by our thoughts. Let them go. The best way to do that is the “f” word. No, not that one! This one - forgiveness. You don’t do it for the other person, you do it for yourself. Unforgiveness is too heavy a burden to carry – it’s like dragging a chair behind you all the time. So in the words of Elsa, “Let it go.” And remember, the person you may need to forgive is your sweet self.

9. Sweat – Work Your Body

Ever heard that saying, “Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glisten?” Well, whatever you call it, it’s so super healthy that everyone should be doing it as often as possible! Studies show a multitude of benefits accompany exercise, including living longer! And who doesn’t want that? So pick your favorite physical activity, grab a workout partner if you want to derive the social benefits as well, and just do it!

10. Renew – Through Nature

Hiking in the woods, digging in the dirt, listening to the waves, walking in the rain, beholding a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. What do all these things have in common? They help us renew our spirits by connecting us with nature and focusing us on the wonder and beauty of the world of which we are a part. So take your shoes off and really connect with Mother Earth.

We hope we’ve inspired you to live life with an exclamation point! We invite you to be here for the girls with us. To learn more, please visit hereforthegirls.org.



Categories: Breast Cancer
About The Author
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Mary Beth Gibson is the Executive Director of Here for the Girls. Diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 41, she, along with her Co-founder (and co-conspirator) Rene Bowditch, started the organization in 2007 to address the specific needs of young women facing the disease. Encouraging these young women to live life with an exclamation point instead of a period is one way the organization helps its members be strengthened, not diminished by their diagnoses. A wife and mother of three teenage boys, every day presents opportunities to live life with exclamation. She has both jumped out of an airplane and joined a book club.

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