Everyone will go through a tough time or a trauma in their life. You need a go-to list of items you can latch onto to help you through it.
Dana Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at the age of 32. She is the co-founder of a cancer survivorship organization called The Dragonfly Angel Society. She volunteers as an advocate and mentor, focusing on young adults surviving cancer. She enjoys writing about life as a cancer survivor, as well as connecting survivors to the resources, inspirations and stories that have helped her continue to live her best life, available at www.dragonflyangelsociety.com.
Not everyone will get cancer and not everyone will know someone diagnosed with cancer. However, almost everyone will go through some sort of rough time or trauma in their lives. When that happens, we all need something to latch onto; something to get us through it.
My toughest time was my diagnosis with breast cancer at 32 years old. I had never prepared myself for something horrible to happen to me and I walked the earth as if I wore an invisible cloak. I figured nothing could touch me. I was even super confident when I found a lump in my breast. I was so sure it was a cyst or any other thing that could be easily explained. It was explained with three words: “You have cancer.”
After I slowly started recovering from the shock of a cancer diagnosis, I realized I needed things—lots of things—to get me through. I have a "latch-onto-it" list I have created over the years after my cancer diagnosis. These are the things I latched on to for dear life. These are the things I needed in order to get through cancer. Some were substantial in size and some were so small and petty, but in my eyes, they were everything.
- Notebooks, pens, markers and stickers. I get giddy just thinking of these things. I love to write. I journal, I jot notes, I write down quotes and I spill my thoughts on paper. Let the paper absorb it all. It's a judgement free zone. Have you ever had a piece of paper talk back to you? Nope! It's an amazing resource. I carried a notebook with me to every treatment and doctor's appointment. I carried it with me for inspiration. I put my favorite quotes in it. I added pictures of family and friends. I put in pictures of my favorite destinations like a beach in Florida I visited every year, for example. I could open that notebook to any page and escape.
- Find a WHY statement. What do I mean? Find a “why”: a reason for pushing through. For me it was as simple as writing to myself, "Why am I going through all this chemo, surgeries and treatment?" I know the simple answer is to live but take it one step further. Cancer treatment is difficult and, in many cases, very long. It can wear you down, tire you out, change your body and test your emotions. You will get angry. You will get sad. You will get scared. So, have a "why statement" to go to when you need encouragement. I decorated a couple pages in a notebook with my family pictures, friends, inspirational quotes, etc. I would turn to that page whenever I needed my why.
- Calendar. There is nothing, and I mean nothing like crossing a chemo treatment off your calendar. It is one less chemo you have to do again! I made a calendar with all my chemo treatments, doctor appointments, surgeries and everything else related to my cancer. I crossed all of it off happily with each task completed. It felt so good to be one step closer to being done.
- Family and friends. This is the game changer. Let those people who love and care for you help you. Let them in. It might feel difficult asking for help or accepting help when it is offered. Trust me—it's worth it. I lived by myself and my parents lived out of state. My mom stayed with me the first full week after my bilateral mastectomy. I thought it was a huge inconvenience for her to have to give up her life for a week to help me with day-to-day tasks. Considering I couldn't lift my arms above my belly button, I don't know how I would have made it through without her. If I would have said no to help, my recovery would have been 10 times longer. Family and friends want to be there for you. Let them. It's that easy.
Everyone will have their own list of the things to get them through the tough times. If you are unsure about where to start, chances are you already are using resources that you don't even realize. You just need to take a look around you. They don’t have to be big, huge things, just the little things that give you comfort. Keep those things close. Enjoy them and use them whenever you need some extra comfort.