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.
Don't get stuck hanging out at the stop sign, advises a two-time cancer survivor.
When I got cancer the first time, I felt my life, as I had known it, came to a sudden and complete stop. My mortality hung constantly in front of my face like a big huge stop sign. This feeling persisted for weeks and months, but it gradually got better as years began to roll by as well. A stop light cycles through green, yellow and red and then the process starts all over again. A stop sign, however, does not tell you when it is "safe" to advance again.
Instead, you, the driver, are in charge of that decision.
As a fellow cancer survivor, I caution you: Do not stay stuck at the stop sign when you come to the intersection of Life and Cancer. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to do your best to safely cross the intersection and move forward.
Cancer can be a roadblock. You will have options. Go left or right around the road block? How large a detour is needed? How long do you sit at the stop sign to contemplate the situation? If you are waiting for a green light, you will never get one when you are sitting at a stop sign.
What about reverse? Large vehicles often sound alerts or beep when moving in reverse. It is not productive, healthy or safe to go backwards for a great length of time. We go a little bit backwards, sometimes, when it is necessary. Long-term backward movement is not any safer or smarter than lingering at a stop sign.
Like a new driver, it was hard for me to move forward when I came to my first cancer stop sign. Which direction should I go? When would it be "safe" to move through the intersection? The terrain changed over time and distance for me. I had more experience, mentally and emotionally, when I hit my second cancer stop sign. I chose not to linger at that intersection longer than necessary. I was better at navigating through it.
Currently, even though I do not have cancer, I have a genetic mutation that makes me prone to it. I chose to drive down Mastectomy Avenue and turn right onto Reconstruction Road to get back to the rest of my journey.
Reconstruction Road is full of turns and hills. On top of all that, it is uneven and full of gravel. It is like what a friend once said about the road to her house, "Turn onto the washboard." I am not going to sit at the stop sign at all this time. I won't linger there. I am going to navigate this road to the best of my ability and get back to living my life forward. I strongly encourage you to do the same. You have the driving skills and it will be worth it to move forward through your journey! Now, gently press on the gas pedal.