A breast cancer and melanoma survivor ponders her relationship with her body several years after diagnoses.
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.
Do I trust my body after cancer? Emphatically no! My body betrayed me with breast cancer and then again with melanoma. My cancer survivor’s body has betrayed me twice, so there is no reason to think that it can’t happen again, or again and again. I continue to be surprised at the number of cancer survivors who have dealt with two or more cancers.
I wait in hope for medical research to provide some answers and, most importantly, some solutions. I do vow to take better care of my body after my cancers. I am working on healthier eating and exercise. I know there are studies that show those behaviors can decrease my chances of cancer recurrence by a significant amount. That said, it is a struggle for me. I struggled through active cancer treatment and actually lost weight. Fear can be a great short-term motivator and I was certainly very fearful. After cancer, though, fear has not been a good long-term motivator for me.
My fatigue and chemo brain are my motivators right now. I want to feel better and I want to think better, and I want to enjoy these things long-term — I want to live longer (the audacity, I know). Make sense? Some of this is offset by my desire to live “normally” and to enjoy food, a beverage, hmm ... life in general. Sometimes I am tired of being and feeling different. I wish I could put my head back in the sand. Don’t all of us feel that way sometimes?
If I don’t trust my body and sometimes my will to be healthier fails against my desire to be “normal,” then what do I trust? I trust God. I do get comfort from my faith. I also trust my will to pick myself up and try again after I have made a bad choice. I can wipe the slate clean each and every moment with a better choice. Yes, I ate that
this morning but I can have a couple large glasses of water right now instead of continuing the poor trend. If every bad choice has an impact then every good choice does too. I take comfort in that.
If I am afraid of my body, I can try to be attentive to it and to get reacquainted with it. I can hug myself and tell myself that we are going to work together. If I find something that concerns me, it is OK and rational to go see the doctor right away. There is no point in letting worry linger and eat away at me. I can also try stretching, gentle exercise, yoga and massage to try to be friends with my body.
If I don’t like my body, I can focus on something else or I can massage my scars with lotion, or I can make healthier eating and exercise choices. I can work on making peace with my body. I can acknowledge that at different points in time, I will make different decisions about how I approach my body. Oh, that is so true!
I can choose to stay slouched in the chair, or I can get up and play with my dogs. I can plop in front of the television, or I can get up and make phone calls or clean my home. I really, really having choices. Choices allow for possibility, change and hope. Choices give me forgiveness and freedom. My body and I will move forward.
Life happens. We are allowed to try different hats on to find the one that works for us. We are allowed to wear different hats at different times. We are allowed to change and to make changes. What choices have you made? How are you and your body getting along now?