You’ve been given the dreaded diagnosis. Right now, you’re probably thinking of all the people in your life who have had cancer and how horrible it was, right? First off, DON’T PANIC! Everyone’s cancer journey is different. Just because you know someone who had a rough time doesn’t mean that you will too. Your story will be as unique as you are. So take a deep breath, try to relax and just know that your future isn’t defined by someone else’s experience.
My Cancer – My Journey
If you ask six different people about their cancer, you’ll probably get six completely different stories. That’s because we are ALL different! Of course, we know we are all different, but in times like these, it’s just so easy to compare our story with someone else’s. Please try hard not to do that.
So why do we think that our cancer journey will be the same as someone else’s was? I’m not really sure. I think it has to do with that thing we call, ‘fear of the unknown.’ Even though we see (or have seen) how someone else had to deal with their cancer and treatments, we aren’t able to personalize it to our own situation. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I tend to see it.
A big part of healing really can depend on attitude. Even in the case of someone who is declared terminal, attitude is everything. We’ve all heard or read stories of a terminal cancer patient who was so encouraging to others. People can’t stop talking about her strength – her courage – her Choice to be positive!
Attitude Is Everything
Yes! Attitude IS everything. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re thriving through cancer treatments or you’re running a marathon. It’s been said that many times, given the same situation, one person will do far better than another. The only difference is that one has a good attitude and one does not.
I’m not saying that having a positive attitude will cure your cancer (I’m not saying it won’t either, but that’s another post perhaps). What I am saying is that since you’re in a situation that you didn’t want, don’t like and didn’t ask for, why not make the best of it? Come on, I know your Mom said that to you at least once when you were growing up!
So, how do you make to best of this cancer ‘situation’? I’m glad you asked! I found that writing about it was very helpful for me and it was helpful for my friends and family too! I had ZERO interest in keeping a journal when my friend Susan suggested it. In fact, I only told her I would do it so I could to get her off my back about it! Sorry Susan!
One day, very early on in my journey, I started thinking about what Susan said about The Caring Bridge. It just wouldn’t leave my head so I decided to take a shot at it.
Keep in mind one fact: I am NOT a writer. And I was absolutely sure that no one would want to read what I had to say anyway.
But, I started to write. Mostly, I wrote about the experience. Whenever I had a treatment, I updated my journal. The surrounding days around chemo were documented too. I was real and I was raw. I remember stopping many, MANY times as I was writing to re-think this. To say that I was worried about being too ‘real’ is an understatement. But I kept on. And people really appreciated it!
My point is this: for me, journaling was an outlet that allowed me to keep a good attitude. And the encouragement that came out of it from my friends was a big bonus! It might not be the right vehicle for you, but I want to encourage you to find a way to ‘find a way’. Make sense?
Maybe for you, it’s just being available to others who need someone to listen. Who knows? Pray about it and ask God to show you.
An interesting thing about cancer treatment – it’s never the same for any two people. Just like cancer is never the same – neither is the treatment. Please don’t compare your treatment or your progress with another cancer patient. You just can’t!
While chatting with another cancer patient I met in the radiation department one day, I asked how she was doing with the radiation part. Of course, I knew for sure that she would have the same complaints that I did. She didn’t! I don’t know why I was surprised after already going through chemo and surgery and talking to other patients along the way.
It came as a surprise too, to find out that not all chemo patients lose their hair. I did lose mine, but not my eyelashes or eyebrows. Some people throw up after a treatment – I never did. Weird stuff!
Just because another cancer patient is given a particular treatment option doesn’t mean you’ll get the same option. It really doesn’t apply to you in regards to how your treatment will be.
The biggest thing to remember here is that when you hear about someone with a similar – or maybe the same – cancer as you have and get a bad report, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get a bad report too. This is something I learned early on. You can really freak yourself out if you start doing that!
Just keep in GOOD communication with your doctor and your oncology nurses and tell them when you have fears and concerns. They are trained in helping you…and they’re so very compassionate.
We all have different lives, personalities, connections, support systems! Take a look at who your closest friends and family members are in your life. That’s where you need to start looking for support. I promise you that these people have NO idea how to support you so you’ll need to let them know.
A strong support system is crucial for your THRIVE-AL and ultimate healing. You need to let them know what you need and you can only do that by communicating to them. For me, what I needed many days was just to know that people were praying for me. I didn’t want people fawning over me, I just needed that prayer support. Sometimes I needed someone to go to the store or do other practical things for me.
But, if you don’t tell them, they won’t know. My husband was my number one support during my treatment and recovery. He was careful not to call me too often during the day in case I was sleeping or just having some quiet time. How did he know that? Because I told him!
That’s what you need to do with your support system too. If they don’t know what you need, they can’t provide it. So be open and be HONEST. If you don’t care to have people sitting in your living room while you’re sleeping on the couch, then just tell them. You may be concerned that you’ll hurt feelings and maybe you will, but if you approach it gently, you’ll all be better off.
What About You?
Hopefully you’ve gotten a few good ideas from this post. Just remember that your cancer journey is YOUR CANCER JOURNEY and it will look different from anyone else’s journey. Please let me know how you’re navigating through it. I’d love to hear from you.
Here’s to Thriving and not just Surviving!