I recently decided to stop feeling like a victim in life after cancer. Instead, I’ll celebrate life every day.
Victim. The dictionary defines victim as a person harmed, injured or killed as a result of a crime, accident or other event or action.
That about sums it up. It's how I see myself — as a victim of cancer. I didn't ask for cancer. I never expected it. But it came. And when it did, it did a number on me.
You'd think, after eight years, I'd have let go of the victim mentality, but I hadn't. I didn't even realize I was suffering from that type of thinking until recently.
After a bout of COVID-19 and then several consecutive illnesses, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I blamed it on post-cancer—related fatigue. I struggled daily and my energy level was practically non-existent. It was difficult to get through each day without making myself do things. Every day was exhausting!
It wasn't living, it was existing. There was no happiness or joy. I wanted to thrive, but I didn't know how. How could I when it took every ounce of energy to get through the day?
I'd wake up each morning, thanking God for one more day, but as the day wore on, I wondered why it was so challenging.
"Why can't I let go and break free?" I asked. That’s when I heard a still small voice speak to my heart, "You've got to let go of the victim mentality."
Though I heard the words clearly in my mind, I was shocked. Had I really been living like a victim? Had I been thinking of myself in that way? I didn't consider myself a victim — not really — but then again, maybe I did.
Eight years gone and you'd think I'd have long since left thoughts of cancer behind, but that nagging fear had taken root and wouldn't let me go. Every ache, every pain, every uncontrollable thing my body did made me wonder if I was going to be under attack again.
That's what cancer felt like to me — an attack, just like an assault or a robbery or some other violent crime, an unprovoked, unexpected assault on my person. No wonder I'd adopted a victim mentality!
After any kind of attack, whether it be health related or otherwise, the victim has the choice whether to fight to survive or give up. Making that choice is crucial and can greatly impact one's future.
So, I had to come to the realization that I wanted to live. Not only did I want to live, but I also wanted to live well. I wanted to do the things I enjoyed and have fun doing it. No longer did I want to allow my body, and the way it was feeling, to dictate my choices.
Ironically, our mail that day held the key. Along with a stack of bills, was a colorful postcard. On the front in bold colors, were the words, “Celebrate Life.” The card was announcing an upcoming celebration of life ceremony for cancer survivors at our local cancer treatment center. I’d been invited to participate.
Holding the card in my hands, I turned it back to the front reading the words over and over again. “Celebrate Life.”
That’s when I realized, I hadn’t celebrated life post cancer. I thought hard about it and made the conscious decision to do something. I had to let go of the victim mentality that had held me prisoner for so long.
Since making the decision to let go, I've felt an indescribable weight lifted from my shoulders. No longer am I carrying around a burden I wasn't supposed to bear. Now, it's like I've been given a new lease on life.
Sure, I still struggle with fear, worry and anxiety and probably always will. Those are weak spots in my armor, but I know, I can choose to move from a victim mentality to a victor mentality with a little effort. It’s all about choice.
Though my calendar has more medical appointments on it before the end of the year, there are also some upcoming trips I’ve planned and I'm looking forward to those. I’m going to visit a local sunflower farm, a state parks and a pumpkin farm. Fall is here and I’m ready to celebrate it fully.
In the past, I stuck close to home, just in case of a health crisis and to avoid the possibility of catching COVID-19 again.
I'm so glad I realized my warped reality. That erroneous way of thinking held me captive. Now, I’m looking for ways to celebrate life. Whether it’s something as simple as getting out of bed in the morning and enjoying a steaming cup of coffee to hiking miles of rough terrain in one of our beautiful parks, I look forward to what each new day brings.
Someone once said, “Until further notice, celebrate.” What wise words! I think I shall.
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