From a very young age, my mother used to call me a rubber band. She said no matter how far I was stretched, I always seemed to bounce back. At the time, I didn't understand she was giving me a practical example of what it means to be resilient. But I've never forgotten her statement to me.
I don't know if resilience is a character trait one receives at birth or whether it's a learned response from life experiences during periods of adversity. Whatever the case, I've learned that resilience is an important coping skill, especially for those with breast cancer.
Have you ever wondered why some people are able to remain calm in the midst of tragic circumstances and others become completely unglued? Resilient people are those who are aware of their circumstances but choose not to be overcome by them. They choose to rise above. These people have an inner resolve that helps them not only face their problems, but also think of inventive ways to tackle them. More often than not, they choose to meet their problems head on. This doesn't mean they are ignorant of the issue at hand, it means they've chosen to do whatever necessary to get through their difficulty and in doing so, they're often stronger as a result of it. In contrast, those who lack resilience are easily overcome by stressful situations. It's easy for them to become overwhelmed and be unable to rebound from challenges.
People who are resilient don't go around looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. They understand the reality of the problem at hand. They know they can still experience setbacks and often do, but they choose to look for the positive in a negative situation.
Resilience, or the ability to bounce back, and positivity aren't the same thing, but they certainly complement one another. As I began my breast cancer journey, I was faced with more negatives than positives. It seemed that around every corner, there was one more challenge to face. I'll admit, in the beginning, it wasn't easy. I became engulfed by breast cancer and at one point, thought I'd never find my way out, but my determined spirit fed my resilience. I wasn't about to let cancer get the better of me.
You may not think resilience is a necessary trait for your cancer journey. Perhaps you've managed just fine as is. As you've struggled through each hurdle, you may have barely made it, but there are some ways you to increase and improve your resilience as you go through breast cancer.
Here are some helpful tips:
1. Build a social network. Don't try to tackle your problems alone. It's important to have those around you who will come alongside you in good times and in bad. Choose people who uplift and encourage you.
2. Set goals. By setting goals, you give yourself something to look forward to each day. These goals don't need to be large. Smaller goals are easier to accomplish.
3. Use past experiences to help you relearn. Think about past experiences and how you responded to them. Did you allow the experience to get the better of you or did you fight hard and overcome? Not all health challenges are the same but the problems we face usually involve making a conscious decision on how we want to respond. You can choose to give in or fight.
4. Don't dwell on the past. You can't change things that have occurred in the past. It's important to look toward the future. Learning to adapt to change is a good thing. It will help you overcome anxiety. Stay in the moment. Take one day at a time.
5. Do what you can to take care of yourself. Get lots of rest, eat healthy meals, drink plenty of water, and take time to do the things you enjoy.
6. When problems come, make a plan. By choosing to be proactive, you are also choosing to take control.
For some, resilience comes easily. Others have to learn it. Can resilience change the quality of life for a person affected by breast cancer? There have been studies conducted on the long-term effects of a positive attitude and the survival rate of breast cancer patients. While those studies are inconclusive and abstract, there does seem to be evidence that points to longevity and a better quality of life for those who practice positivity and resilience.
From my own personal experience, I've found my ability to bounce back has a direct correlation between my positive attitude, my will, and my determination. The ability to be resilient has allowed me not only to survive breast cancer but to thrive. Whether it's a trait I was born with or a trait I learned, I'm thankful there's something inside me that wants to live and fights to do it. I guess that's the little something extra most breast cancer survivors have, a cup of resilience that overflows into our lives and pours out on the lives of others.