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Coping With Cancer: One Size Does Not Fit All

Coping with cancer and treatments looks different for everyone.
PUBLISHED January 23, 2017
Stephanie Hammonds is a survivor of ovarian cancer and was first diagnosed in 2009. She is involved with various cancer-related speaking engagements, including with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance's Survivors Teaching Students Program®. She is a life-long artist, freelance writer, lover of Italian cooking, mom and grandmom.
Over the past eight years, I’m met and spoken to many others who have had a cancer diagnosis and gone on to have various treatments. The appointments, tests, medications, infusions, scans and so forth are necessary, but time-consuming. At times, it seems like one's life is spent in a whirlwind of tests and appointments, follow-ups and consultations. What comes along to help break up this almost never-ending time-saturation of doctors, clinics, hospitals and illness?

For many dealing with cancer, it’s a matter of using their own coping skills. Some of us have extended families, children and grandchildren, as well as a wide circle of friends and co-workers to bolster them up and find ways to shift the thought process from illness back to BC (before cancer).

Support groups and meetings can help by fostering relationships with others who are experiencing the same or similar situations. Many will join and attend, enjoying the camaraderie with others and find these groups a real oasis of help and friendship in the desert of their illness. They can help with the feelings of isolation and sadness many feel when dealing with cancer alone.

Some like to travel. They book short and long trips both: to other states, counties, cities and countries. They take their time to travel to enjoy unique experiences, leaving cancer behind for a few weeks and enjoying the exhilaration of seeing and learning about new cultures, other languages, trying new foods and just enjoying life by talking to new acquaintances, taking in the sights and sounds, leaving little time for thinking about illness. A new "perspective" may emerge.

Patients do volunteer work. The enjoyment they experience in helping others gives them purpose, a sense of usefulness and just plain joy.  

Those who had meaningful hobbies and interests prior to the time-consuming care that cancer takes, might find that these interests have taken a “back seat.” Now is the time to resume hobbies and favorite endeavors, as they can be the key to help keep our minds calm and focused.

Writing, creative crafts, painting, music, reading, puzzles, yard sale-ing, gardening, house projects, sewing, cooking, whatever you enjoyed up until now…keep it going.

If entertaining was your thing, but having a large group over is overwhelming, try two or three guests for a small tea party. Can’t manage heavy yard work? Herb pot gardening has become very popular.

I'm a trained artist. I keep up with my artwork: illustration and painting. It means the world to me. I bring sketchbook and pencils to my infusions and draw as much as possible through the process. Sometimes, while patients wait for appointments, I notice others knitting and reading.

Keeping minds focused this way isn’t for everyone, because we're all different; our coping mechanisms are diverse; we are all unique individuals after all.

I believe that our interests and coping skills keep us going, and when we keep going, it helps bolster up our spirit. And I believe that we need plenty of personal spirit to live with cancer.
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