First, take a breath. Slow your racing thoughts down. Take it one minute, one hour, eventually, one day at a time. Stick with the program. Stubbornness will get you through cancer. Develop your stubbornness. Success with cancer is not always about intelligence, education or talent. Persistence and patience may help you more.
When first diagnosed, my brain scrambled to think its way out of cancer. Clever me? No – it didn’t work. No matter how much I wanted a shortcut, there was not one to be had. Cancer is a frightening disease and I had to work my way through it at all stages – diagnosis, active treatment and then after active treatment.
I have said this about cancer before, “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it, just get through it.” You can do this even when you have those moments where you feel like you can’t. Reach out. Don’t go it alone. Cultivate your internal persistence and patience. Persistence is key. Patience will help you, too. I learned that my patience needed lots of work. Practice, practice, practice. Many of us do not come by it naturally. Heck, we are an instant-gratification society. We want the quick fixes and the easy solutions.
Diagnosis: When I was first diagnosed at age 46, I discovered that life can be a heavy hitter sometimes. Fear of death and dying is very primal. When first diagnosed, you may think cancer is too big for you to get through. Cancer is a life changer. Be persistent, get answers and develop a treatment plan. Get help starting from this moment forward. Create a medical team and support team that you trust. Let them help you through this. Don’t go it alone.
Treatment time: Pain, discomforts, fears about surgery, chemotherapy, side effects, radiation and lack of sleep will try to plow you under. Stay with the program. One minute, one hour, one day at a time. You can muddle through. Keep going. Communicate with your medical team about your experiences so they can help you through your treatment. Tell them your side effects. For emotional support and understanding, seek out fellow survivors and a talk therapist. Cancer is big. Again, ask for help.
Life after treatment: This requires persistence, too. You can never completely go back to thr old normal—you have changed. Fears and worries about appointments, tests and things you notice about changes in your body and health will be there. Worries and questions will pop up. Cultivate stubbornness. Time away from diagnosis and active treatment and successful follow-up appointments will help you. Hang in there. Hang on. You will get back to being able to live your life. It absolutely does get better.
Learn tools to get you through all of it. Cancer is big. Cancer is a deal changer. I needed stubbornness to add to the tools to cope with my cancer emotions and I needed strengthening my belief system, a cancer support group, one-on-one contact with fellow survivors, a psychotherapist who was a good fit for me, medication, meditation, mindfulness, and distraction. You will learn what works best for you and you will get through this.
Cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship are like running a marathon, not a short sprint. Take it one step at a time. Take it moment by moment. Take a breath. You can work on your own persistence and patience one minute, one hour and one day at a time. Persistence and patience are internal tools that you can cultivate to help you through cancer.