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.
Being able to wait is a skill many patients with cancer learn to acquire, but that doesn't make it easy. Here's how to get your own patience power.
Have you heard the story about patience power? It is about each of us being given so much patience power at birth but then explores the idea that maybe some of us can run out of this precious commodity. I think this could be especially true for cancer survivors, as we wait for lots of things.
Do you ever feel like if you have to wait for one more surgery, biopsy result, blood test or scan result, your head just might explode? We are not patient people. The world that we live in is about instant everything. The trouble is that non-cancer life just keeps rolling along whether we, as cancer survivors, happen to be in "wait" mode or not. Can patience be learned in these difficult times that we cancer survivors experience? What is the recipe for more patience power when we feel we are running low?
Yes, there are techniques to learn to become more patient, though they are not specific to cancer patients dealing with medical procedures and results. Waiting for a bus is not the same as waiting for a PET scan result! Make sure to surround yourself with people that get that distinction.
Seize The Day
Almost two years ago, I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Since hindsight is twenty-twenty, I wish I had spent more time enjoying my nipples before I had them removed rather than impatiently waiting for the surgery.
At the time, though, I remember anxiously waiting for the most major surgery that I had ever had. I wasn't, eh hem, in the mood for sexual pleasure. I was scared stiff. Still, the lesson to me is live in the moment. I don't think a person can be living in the moment and struggling to be patient at the same time.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over The Past
While waiting, it is not a good idea to ponder what I wish I had done differently — more exercise or healthier eating choices or anything else. No self-shaming! Waiting is difficult enough! Instead, I try to do things that center myself and lose myself like, breathing, journaling, activities that distract me and the comfort of my relationships with the people I love.
Even though my cancer worry brain is working overtime, I can make the effort to calm myself and distract myself instead of being hard on myself, especially while waiting.
Remember That You Have Survived Cancer
Today, almost ten years later, I am still here.
Cancer survivors have gotten through a lot. We can get through the waiting times too. My faith in God, my belief system, helps me keep perspective to get through the waiting times that inevitably come with a cancer diagnosis. We are not alone. We have each other. We can get through the waiting times even when we are low on patience power.
I believe we can regenerate our supply of patience power by practicing the thoughts above. I also believe it is natural to be fearful and impatient when waiting for potentially life-threatening information. Do not go it alone. When you feel low on patience power, please reach out. There is a community of survivors who understand you and who are here for you.