A breast cancer and melanoma survivor reflects on being tired of her cancers and living with uncertainty.
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.
I am stalling in making my appointments to see my doctors in 2016. It isn’t rational. I know I need to be monitored and checked out regularly. I am just tired of my cancers. Sometimes people are tired of their spouse or a family member or their home or job. Today, I am tired of cancer.
Ironically, it is probably normal sometimes to be tired of something that has frightened me, worn me down and taken its pound of flesh in so many ways. Sheepishly, I feel a little stupid — tired of this problem? The universe could certainly send me a different one to keep me busy for a while. No, thank you. I am not sending out a request for another problem.
No news really can be good news. How much should I go hunting for cancer news? What research should
I be reading? What tests should
I be requesting? What medical information (doctor appointments) should
I be getting settled? What is rational versus overly concerned?
Living with one or more cancer diagnosis is living a life painfully aware of life's uncertainty, and it is ongoing. The uncertainty — whether someone is newly diagnosed or twenty years out — never goes away. The uncertainty wears a person down. A person wants a break from the uncertainty. Cancer survivors live with the uncertainty that a problem (cancer) may or may not pop up again for the rest of their lives.
Growth does sometimes come through problems: relationship changes, job changes, health changes and more. Why do some of us use negatives to create positives? My cancers have helped me grow my faith and deepen my relationships and focus better on priorities. That said, I would be the last person to ever call either of my cancers “gifts.” No. Absolutely not. A disease is not a gift. A life of uncertainty isn’t a special present.Maybe there are just some moments in our life where we desire a breather or a break. Sometimes we actually get one: We find a distraction that allows us look in a different direction. Sometimes we just want a break while we continue foward. Excuse me, could I just have a break from cancer care, cancer appointments, cancer thoughts, cancer concerns, cancer worries and cancer itself? How do cancer survivors catch a break?
Sometimes I catch breaks by giving my worries to God, distracting myself with what is around me, practicing gratitude for the things going right and reminding myself, ironically, that I am not in charge. Does it really make sense to worry about things I can’t control? On the other hand, the feelings of worry, after what I have been through, still make me feel weary.
Yes, it is normal to feel this way sometimes. What cancer survivor doesn’t crave some version of normal? How do I know when to try to take a break and when it would be better to work through my cancer thoughts and feelings?
How do you take a break from cancer? Maybe I just need to get those doctor appointments made, put on the calendar and then give myself permission to take a break from my cancers. I will give it to God and try to move my life forward in other directions in the meantime. Please tell me, how do you catch a break from your cancer? How do you cope when the only constant is uncertainty?