I recently turned the big 3–0. While this milestone feels somewhat arbitrary, it was still an opportunity to reflect on the past decade. In doing so, it also helped me identify what I wanted to take forward and implement. I for one do not want to live an unexamined life. Here are 11 life lessons that stood out as I reflect on the decisions I’ve made.

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1. Define what success means to you.

Re-programming the way we think to counter mainstream views of what makes people successful is challenging.

Identifying what I considered to be personal “success” early on would have helped greatly in figuring out what…


An upfront disclaimer: You don’t have to get through graduate school.

Living with chronic illnesses often complicates everything. There are many ways to add value to this world and make meaningful contributions. For some, grad school helps with that path but for many others, it is often a hindrance. If you fall into the former category (or suspect you might), read on dear friend.

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Graduate school was a somewhat ‘legitimate’ way for me to escape the 9 to 5 grind, which was making me sicker than I already was. Of course, I wanted to hone my skills and be more…


I never felt like an imposter until I heard of imposter syndrome.

Sure, I’ve felt a little out of place or downright uncomfortable in certain settings, even in those where I supposedly “belonged”. But, imposter is a strong word.

im·pos·tor

noun: a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.

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I never would have chosen such a word to describe those uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy or feeling out of place. But the ubiquitous use of the term inevitably made its way into my consciousness.

Alain de Botton’s book Status Anxiety describes how…


Like many around the world, I have been struggling with both my physical and mental health.

In early March, shortly before Canada and many other countries seriously implemented social distancing measures against COVID-19, I lost consciousness twice while I was at home alone. The impact of falling and hitting my head resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury or a concussion. I have been recovering at a snail’s pace (I am writing this in short 15-minute spurts over several days for rehab reasons). …


Receiving a thyroid cancer diagnosis can be a life-changing moment and it will take some adjusting to. In addition to navigating all the new information and potential life changes, there may be a range of emotions. I cannot emphasize enough how important my caregivers and support network were to me. It was challenging to stay on top of my emotions and sometimes I did lash out at those closest to me. I’m not proud of it and I did strive to genuinely apologize and work on being better. …


Recently “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix has been my go-to show. I’ve been talking about it with whoever will listen to me. I love that the series follows people at different stages in their life — the downsizers, the newlyweds, the empty-nesters, after a loss. One key life change that the series didn’t cover was divorce.

What happens when that loss is associated with painful, bittersweet memories? What do we do with all the things?

Exactly two years ago, my partner of almost a decade moved out and we began the process of filing for divorce. Like tale…


If you have to prioritize one goal this new year, it should be to slow down.

At first, this seems counterintuitive and counterproductive to achieving many typical new year’s goals — whether it be losing weight, getting fitter, reading more, growing a business, publishing a book or saving more money.

In today’s world, our worth is increasingly tied to what and how much we produce. We are measured by our contributions to society (even though only specific contributions are recognized). Entire books and blogs are devoted to being more efficient, doing more in less time and overcoming obstacles to productivity…


As we close up International Thyroid Awareness week, it seems a good a time as any to consider just what living with a thyroid issue looks like, especially when you’re a high-functioning, overachieving dreamer and doer.

Learning to live without a thyroid was a little bit like learning how to walk all over again. Granted, at the age of 7 months, I thought crawling was a waste of time and decided to skip that step, so to speak. One day, I just got up off my derrière and used my chubby legs to wobble over to my mother.

It would…


I’m back from a refreshing solo vacation where I swam in the ocean, read on the beach and meditated under palm trees. It was exactly what I needed, but it almost didn’t happen.

After a severe concussion in 2013, I became dependent on the people around me. I couldn’t bear any stimuli and was holed up at home with the curtains drawn and noise-cancelling headphones on. I had also started medication for depression. In 2014, when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I was still experiencing sound and light sensitivity, remnants of a jostled brain.

The cancer diagnosis really threw me. At the young age of 24, I was frustrated that I now had to deal with a massive life hurdle. Predictably, the diagnosis didn’t help my depression. Although I tried to be…

Nadha Hassen

Health researcher, PhD student and writer. Thriving with thyroid cancer. All about reflection, growth and living fully. nadhahassen.com

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