Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
A survivor of breast cancer and melanoma reflects on her simple New Year's resolutions.
I am still here! Five and a half years after breast cancer and a year and a half year after melanoma, I am so grateful to be here. Yes, there is chemo brain, fatigue, arthritis ... but I am here. This time of year always has me thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. What about you? Here are some of mine.
Let go of the self-beating. It is so hardwired into me that this is a difficult and ongoing project for me. Life is too short. Cancer survivors know this on a very intimate and gut level, yet many of us repeat those “not good enough” critical words to ourselves regularly. With the cancer diagnosis itself, I have to let go of the guilt or worry that I caused it somehow, too. Self-beating is hurtful and unproductive. I wouldn’t wish it on a friend — why do I do this to myself?
Let go of the past. I can’t change it. It is time to forgive others, forgive myself and move forward. If there is something that can be fixed by some kind of verbal or actual reparation, I try to do it. As for the rest, it makes more sense to look forward rather than backwards. I think about what I would probably say to a friend, “Learn from it and move on.”
Resolve to help. Cancer can encourage someone to be extremely self-focused — at least that is one of the ways it affected me. Now is the time to give, to look outward around us and to help where we can. An interim pastor at our church once summed up the Christian teachings into this simple message that I never forgot: “Love God. Serve God. Love your neighbor. Serve your neighbor.” Simple enough that I could hang onto those words for years.
Resolve to resolve medical uncertainty where possible. Cancer creates a lot of scanxiety and worrisome thoughts. Physical symptoms, no matter how small or temporary, also can create lots of stress and worry about the unknown. Is the cancer back? Promptly see your doctor and resolve those worries when they happen. Don’t let them linger and eat away at you.
Resolve to live. Focus on the people around you. Focus on nature. Create and work on your personal bucket list. There is always someone or something around us to enjoy. Get out there — one step, one breath and one moment at time. My grandpa, who lived to be 99, often said to me “You only have one little life. Live your own life.”
Resolve to take care of yourself. Yes, this includes a healthy diet and exercise but it also means, for me, moderation and no self-beating for backslides. Be gentle with yourself. After everything you have experienced, you deserve it. I mean it. I still struggle to practice it.
Resolve to be grateful. Every day, find three things to be grateful for. One day, I was grateful for a conversation, the way it looked outside and something my husband said to me. Don’t make this habit overcomplicated. Don’t overthink it. Do try to cultivate this habit and you will find yourself to be happier.
I am not going to make a longer list. Seven is plenty. I wouldn’t remember more items anyway. Resolutions are easier to accomplish if kept simple, measurable and doable. I will look life in the face in 2016 and say, “Bring it on!”
What resolutions are you making this year?