A Cancer Survivor Shares Her Time Management Worries

Two-time cancer survivor and clutter clearing trainer vents about time management problems with an awareness that her time is her life.
PUBLISHED August 06, 2015
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
There is no time and I have no energy. Maybe it is because I am a two-time cancer survivor. Maybe it is also because I am just getting older. Fall will be hectic and then the holidays are just around the corner! Do you ever feel you have gotten as efficient and organized as you can get, and it still just isn't enough, especially after cancer treatment? Well, everything isn't getting done any more—I can't keep up, and I am tired of rushing around fatigued and sometimes close to panic. Do you ever feel this way? What is the answer?

When I glance at the magazines at the grocery checkout, they just tell me to calm down by taking bubble baths and to practice a few moments of deep breathing to reduce my stress. I am sorry, but some of those thoughts are quickie techniques that sound like trying to put a small finger bandage on a big open chest wound.

Quick fixes aren't the answer. It depresses me that the information gurus on magazine covers at the grocery store often treat the symptoms rather than addressing the causes. Hop on the latest bandwagon. All your problems will be solved! Why do they do that? Because it seems easier even though it isn’t effective (and they can sell you the same magazine again next year)!

Fix what matters. As survivors, we have many choices every day. We can cover up symptoms, or try to fix underlying causes. When I have a headache, I probably need more sleep at night (or an MRI) rather than a pill to mask the pain. Maybe I need to take a hard look at my life to see if I can eliminate things that are causing the headache—perhaps too much stuff to take care of or too many activities?

Simplify! Though it is easier to crack a can of pop or take some pain medication, it is better for me to make tough choices about how I live my life. Plus, when I make the tough choices, my gut tells me that I move my life, however long it may be, in the right direction. My heart says so.

People first. Sometimes my "stuff to-do” list gets very long and includes stupid stuff like doing laundry, buying toilet paper, or taking care of things in my home. I also have a "people” to-do list. Many of us don't write one or both lists down on paper. Ideas float around in our heads as vague "ought to do's" and "should’s." The people list includes things like calling and emailing family members and friends, scheduling get-togethers with people (real live ones, in person and everything), and making doctor appointments for myself and other family members. To help myself, I write down both lists. When I choose to take care of my "people" to-do list first, I absolutely know I am spending my time doing the right things.

When I am stressed out or struggling with fear of recurrence, I have learned that it is worth the extra effort to fix the cause rather than to treat the symptom. I will never get it perfect, but it is simpler and healthier to eliminate a cause rather than to continue to treat and mask multiple symptoms. To gain better control of a life I really can’t control means to fix problems rather than mask them. It is harder to do but worth it.

Try this: The book "Creating A Charmed Life--Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know by Victoria Moran" (HarperOne, 1999) has small readable sections and practical suggestions. Her resources/bibliography section points me to even more help. Her suggestions, like anyone’s, work best if I am willing to make the tough personal choices and changes needed to do them. Sometimes I will crack that can of caffeine while I work on the tough stuff. After all, I need to stay awake to finish the book that persuades me to get more sleep. I can't change everything at once—we all have to function in the "real world."

Tough choices. Cancer survivors especially know that sometimes the tough choices are all that are left when we get tired of masking too many symptoms. The very definition of the word "choice" means picking from options that each have their advantages and disadvantages. That is why it is tough. As survivors, we know that we really can't have it all, all at once, right this instant. When I make the tough choices, when I prioritize, I think I am happier with my choices and my life. How about you?
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