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You have cancer. Now what?
So you’ve been told two of the worst words in the English language when put together. It’s cancer. It’s. Cancer.
The C word.
What the F.
Anyone who’s gone through cancer can tell you that once they finally get to a diagnosis - once they are ready to say those two words to you - everything starts moving in high speed. There are a million more tests. You start meeting with a gazillion different people - doctors, nurses, medical assistants, social workers, nutritionists. One after another after another. You get poked and prodded even more. Scanned more. Sometimes rushed into surgery. You get implanted with a port. You start chemo, maybe radiation. It all happens so fast. You hold on for dear life and show up and try to take it all in. Some of it makes sense. Some of it just floats past you. You try to be strong and brave for your friends and family. You’ve seen so many others do this, right? Be strong. Be brave. Fight for your life.
From one cancer survivor to another or to the person who just got diagnosed, here are some tips that helped me. Things that other survivors told me and some I just figured out on my own. If any of this resonates with you, wonderful. If not, then by all means, just move forward and do what works for you!
- Slow down and breathe. Again. Deep breaths. It can feel like you are standing in the middle of the Auto Bahn and everything is whizzing by you at 200 miles per hour. Close your eyes and breathe. It can be really hard to stop the freight train of a new cancer diagnosis, but if you need to, slow it down a little. A dear friend of mine gave me this advice. I was supposed to start chemo on a Friday. I wasn’t ready. I needed a second to slow down and be me for a couple more days. So, I asked my oncologist if I could wait until Monday. He said yes. I am so grateful to my friend who suggested this. I don’t know that you are ever truly ready to start chemo, but this helped me to feel a little more ready and like it was MY choice. Not just what I was being told to do.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask questions. Ask more questions. If your doctor isn’t answering your questions, see another doctor. If you can, have someone you trust with you at the appointments who can write the answers down. Or tape the appointments. MAKE SURE you are getting all of the information you need. This is YOUR life. YOUR body. YOUR experience. Doctors are REALLY smart. They know a lot but they may not know you. Talk to them. If you don’t feel comfortable enough with your doctor to ask questions and talk, ask to see another doctor. Find another doctor. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you understand what’s going to happen and you trust the doctor telling you this plan.
- Don’t be a hero. Surgery, chemo and radiation suck. I’m not going to sugar coat it….they REALLY suck. Don’t try to be a hero and not complain about what’s happening. If you feel sick - tell your doctor. If you have weird symptoms - tell your doctor. If you have mouth sores - tell your doctor. If your hands or feet hurt - tell your doctor. If you have bone pain - tell your doctor. TELL YOUR DOCTOR EVERYTHING. They have ways to help you. And it helps them understand your body and how it’s responding to the treatment. Every body is different. Speak up. You aren’t a bother or a complainer. They are giving you poison. That poison will hopefully save your life, but in the meantime, let them help you through it.
- Guard your space. When your physical defenses are taken down to basically nothing, guard the space around you. I was extremely picky about who I would spend time with and talk to during chemo. I only allowed people I TRULY trusted in my space. I didn’t need anyone who questioned my choice of treatment, who felt fake or like they were making things about them. And if I made plans for someone to stop by and then didn’t feel up to seeing them, I cancelled. You can pull the cancer card! I’m giving you permission. You are fighting for your life. Let go of people pleasing. You can please anyone you want once you are strong and healthy again, but until then, you get to be selfish and protect yourself in whatever way feels good to YOU.
- It’s okay to cry. A lot. And laugh. And make jokes. And SOB. And curse god and the universe while simultaneously praying to them. It’s ALL okay. Getting cancer sucks. It’s hard. It’s scary. And hurts - both physically and emotionally. So let the feelings out. And then let them out some more. If you try to pretend like they aren’t there and don’t let them roll through you, they will get stuck and that can be way more painful in the long run. Feel it all. It’s 100% okay.
This will change your life in more ways than you can imagine. Look, I’m not trying to be Pollyanna about this - it’s going to suck balls, but there is beauty on the other side if you are willing to see it. My oncologist kept telling me - "this will change your life. You will be stronger and have such a different perspective once you get to the other side." He couldn’t have been more right. Making it through cancer is hard as shit, but every other challenge in life pales in comparison - at least that's been my experience. I used to joke at work - it’s not like we’re curing cancer!! Little did I know I would get more experience with this than I ever wanted. Now, anytime something seems a little hard, I just think - It ain’t cancer!!!! Unless it’s truly life and death, I can get through anything. The sun shines brighter in my world now. The flowers smell sweeter. I notice the simplest little things and smile in wonder. I’m alive. I get to be here and feel all of it.
Cancer’s horrible. There’s no way around it. But there is a way through it. If you want to read more posts like this, sign up here to keep receiving my emails. I’ll be sharing more insight, tips and inspiration. You don’t have to go it alone. I’m here to help.
Hi there! Welcome to my very first blog post here! I really want to get a conversation started. I feel like a blog is a wonderful place to be able to share information and for you to get to know me a little better (maybe that goes without saying!). My goal here is to open the door to create a relationship.