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.
This breast cancer and melanoma survivor encourages newly diagnosed cancer patients to hang onto their hope.
Keep your hope. I am a survivor of two different cancers (breast and melanoma) and almost nine years later, I am still here. Keep your hope. We, as humans, are designed to be able to keep hope. Sometimes the way to keep hope is to keep in mind that there will be an end date to chemotherapy and other treatments and surgeries. Sometimes hope is something less tangible that involves spirituality or faith. There are many ways to keep hope and I encourage you to find yours.
A cancer diagnosis is a life changing diagnosis. Unless you have it, I don't think a lot of people truly understand that on a gut level even if they understand intellectually. Many cancer survivors fear their cancer, a recurrence, or a new cancer. You are not alone. Cancer is not just something to "get through." It is a possibility that we learn to live "with." Still, as a two-time cancer survivor, I encourage you to keep your hope.
You are not alone. Through in-person and online support groups and a talk therapist, it is possible to connect with others who understand what you are feeling. And, yes, you will get through cancer — you will not always be in active treatment. More of us are living longer. As you put more time, distance and treatment between you and your initial cancer diagnosis, you will move forward and life will get better.
Take a breath. Actively work to slow down the racing thoughts. That might mean a journal or a list to get those spinning thoughts out of your brain. It might mean distraction, meditation, keeping your hands busy or choosing to focus on your senses in the moment to slow down time a little. You will learn what comforts you.
Things will get better. Life will get better — not the same as it was before cancer, but better than it feels at the time of diagnosis and active treatment. Hang onto hope with both hands! Enjoy the breaks, focus on the happy moments, however brief they may seem, and keep moving forward.
I wish doctors could instill more hope at the time of the initial cancer diagnosis. They may be cautious about this because they may not know exactly which type of cancer you have or how your body will react to the surgeries and treatments it needs. Maybe they could just acknowledge what you are feeling, perhaps saying something like, "Hey, I know this sounds super frightening. Try to take a breath and let's figure this out together." Would that help, maybe a little?
The loneliness and fear are definitely real. Cancer hurts physically, mentally and emotionally. Still, there can be hope. I wish doctors would be quicker to connect their patients with cancer talk therapists and cancer support groups, and maybe even a fellow survivor of the same type of cancer. This might take some of the pressure off the doctor and help the cancer patient too! You can get through this and live with this, so please reach out to others and keep your hope!