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.
You know yourself best, so try and figure out what works best for you and do not be afraid to give yourself the precious gift of self-care during and after your cancer journey. You deserve this.
It is a delightful, small treat. Here I am in my comfy spot with my nail file and wooden nail stick. I am a long-term cancer survivor stealing a precious moment to tidy up my ragged fingernails. Is that sweet but a little sad? That’s what I was going for.
What I mean is — in the months and years since a cancer diagnosis, remember to practice self-care. Some of us tend to forget about self-case as we get pulled back into our busy lives and routines.
Maybe it really isn’t so bad, and maybe this is just a shoutout to the sweetness of the simple things. You know, like enjoying a sunset or watching the birds fly across the sky. Or, how about the not-so-simple (or inexpensive) things, like a mani-pedi or a two-hour massage or a long observant walk?
Why is self-care so difficult? This is about more than money. Sometimes I do make selfish choices, usually purchases to feather our nest or my wardrobe or to work on a home improvement project, but the precious gift of time for self-care? That can often be a different story for cancer survivors who are filled with anxiety and fear of recurrence. Here is how this 10-year cancer survivor would do it differently if she could go back in time:
It is OK not to be OK. After my double mastectomy, I was back at the doctor’s office a couple weeks later, not understanding why it was taking so long to heal. I think there are quite a few survivors who try to get back on their feet too quickly and then we wonder why we crash and burn or become exhausted and resentful. Sometimes it is our own fault — we quickly get back up to full speed and rush around trying to take care of everyone and everything else before we are quite healed or ready.
You know how precious it is. Please give yourself time to heal. After getting to still be here 10 years after my first cancer diagnosis, my main regret is not giving myself the gift of time. No one could have done this for me. Treat yourself to the little things and the big things. Sometimes “things” aren’t really things but intangibles that can improve our happiness — like connecting with nature or having meaningful conversations.
Time after time I have rediscovered that this just works. Even glass-is-half-empty people like me benefit from focusing on the good rather than the bad daily. Hey, you are still here. Most days I try to mentally list three things that make me feel grateful. Sometimes I put them in my journal and other times, I just think it through without writing anything down.
Even as an introvert, I think many of us have had too much alone time due to the pandemic. Lengthy alone time can get me all twisted and wrapped up in my own thoughts. Instead, helping someone else can help me heal too. Helping someone else can be more fulfilling than lengthy navel gazing. It can be a form of self-care too. Give it a try.
Finally, consider unplugging a little from our amazing electronic devices. Yes, it can be handy and distracting to have instant access to news, shows, Facebook, and more, however sometimes unplugging can be more soul healing. You know yourself best, so try and figure out what works best for you and do not be afraid to give yourself the precious gift of self-care during and after your cancer journey. You deserve this.