Two-time cancer survivor just doesn't trust the body that betrayed her--twice.
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 don’t trust my body after my cancers. No way. First I was betrayed by breast cancer and then by melanoma on the opposite side of my body. Why wouldn’t I begin to think that it could happen again, or even again and again? Unfortunately, and sadly, there seems to be quite a few cancer survivors who have had more than one cancer. We worry about cancer coming again, and we wait hopefully for solutions—sooner, rather than later. We all want to get along with our bodies, or at least call a truce.
Many of us, as cancer survivors, vow to take better care of our bodies after cancer treatment, and data does show that this helps lower the risk of recurrence. I work on healthier eating and physical movement. I know there are studies that show those behaviors can decrease my chances of cancer recurrence quite a bit. Unfortunately, these behaviors can still be difficult for me.
During active cancer treatment, I actually lost weight! Lucky me. Fear was a great short-term motivator, and I was extremely fearful. After active cancer treatment ended, though, fear was not a good long-term motivator for me. My psychotherapist says fear is not a good long-term motivator for most people. It isn’t sustainable.
Fatigue and chemobrain fog motivate me now. I want to feel better and to think better. I even want to live longer (the audacity of that for a cancer survivor). Some of this is offset by my desire to live “normally” and to be able to enjoy food, a drink and sometimes even just plain life. I have days where I am tired of being and feeling different. Do you ever wish, since cancer, that you could just put your head back in the sand?
My answers: I try to trust God and grow my faith, and I believe in the power of choice. I can choose to wipe my slate clean each and every moment with a better health choice. Maybe I made a poor lunch choice, but I can make a better dinner choice. Maybe I didn’t move my body today, but I will tomorrow. The possibility of choice comforts me.
When I am afraid of my body, I try to get reacquainted with it. I hug myself and tell myself it will be OK. When something concerns me, I allow that it is OK and rational to go see the doctor right away, especially given my history as a cancer survivor. There is no point in letting worry eat away at me. I also do stretching, gentle exercise and massage sometimes to try to work with my body.
On the days that I don’t like my body, I focus on something else or face up to everything that happened and honor my scars with massage and lotion. I try to make peace with my body. It is an ongoing process for me.
Bad stuff happens in life, including cancer. Give yourself time and work on making peace with your body. Believe in change and choices. You can make changes and different choices any time you wish. Yes, cancer happened and yes, you can get through this.