3 Ways to Get Cancer Off Your Back

Our first imperative as cancer survivors is to travel on a journey of wellness and peace of mind, not fear and stress.

“I didn’t survive cancer to die of stress.”

I stumbled across this quote on the Internet and immediately it resonated with me. Yes, it sounds sarcastic, but there’s a stark truth behind this catchy phrase. Don’t we survivors feel like this at times?

We often let cancer throw us off the track emotionally. Cancer likes to play with our minds, and we are vulnerable to its whims. A survivor friend of mine puts it like this: “I’m afraid that I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Our first imperative as cancer survivors is to travel on a journey of wellness and peace of mind, not fear and stress. To make that journey a little smoother, here are three helpful coping tips for you:

1. Turn off your internal tape recorder. Cancer’s number one goal (besides trying to kill us!) is to worry us to death. Cancer dominates our thoughts so pervasively that our recorder is constantly on “rewind.”

Rewinding to the day we heard that terrifying diagnosis. Rewinding to when we endured countless treatments and weathered unending complications. Rewinding to the point of mental exhaustion!

Haven’t we suffered enough?

So, we must hit “pause” and replace those mental images with stress-free thoughts and activities.Cancer underestimates our ability to shut it out.

How to best cope? We only have this golden moment and we decide how to spend it. Get a mindfulness app for your phone or tablet or join a class on guided meditation. Or you might wish to take the lighthearted approach, so spend an hour with your favorite standup comedian on Netflix or Hulu. For me, it’s a nightly dose of the “Becker” sitcom on Pluto TV and “Grounded for Life” on the streaming channel Tubi.

2. Get outside your “me zone.” As bad as your cancer may be, your world shrinks when you put the focus entirely upon your health. Be part of the life of others. Put your servant’s heart out there.

I have a neighbor who is homebound with a serious medical condition. I frequently pick up his medicine for him or run other errands. It is a privilege and a joy to help him in these ways. And, bonus news: We have become fast friends!

Also, at Gilda’s Club I’ve been a dedicated member of our emotional support group for three years. During many of our sessions, the word “cancer” never even comes up. We talk about gardening, the latest movies, family doings and many other topics. I also serve as the corresponding secretary.

At Gilda’s, I think less and less about the menacing presence of my cancer.

3. Choose joy. Be joyful in all you do and remember that joy has nothing to do with wealth or material things. Rather, it has everything to do with having a fulfilling purpose in life and genuine friendships that make our days worthwhile.

No, it’s not easy turning off that pesky tape recorder or venturing out of your me zone. But the rewards – joy and gratitude – outweigh the stress and fear that cancer often generates. Flex your wings a little. You won’t be sorry!