Dana Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at the age of 32. She is the co-founder of a cancer survivorship organization called The Dragonfly Angel Society. She volunteers as an advocate and mentor, focusing on young adults surviving cancer. She enjoys writing about life as a cancer survivor, as well as connecting survivors to the resources, inspirations and stories that have helped her continue to live her best life, available at www.dragonflyangelsociety.com.
A little focus on intentions for the week can help fight off cancer blues and allow more time for taking care of yourself.
Yes, I am one of those people who finds a focus word for the year. I've only done this for the last few years, and I do find it to be one of the most helpful things to keep me on track for what I set out to do in the year. I use the word loosely. I don't base everything I do on it, but I tend to lose my way here and there when those good old cancer fears decide to throw me off course. My focus word pulls me back toward the path I want to take. This year I chose the word “intention.”
I chose intention this year because I tend to talk a good talk, but fail to keep the actions in line with the words. Every year since my cancer diagnosis, I promise myself I won't let the cancer fears get to me. I promise to eat healthier, exercise, practice mindfulness, etc. I promise that I won't freak out with every pain, lump, bump, doctor visit, test, etc. See all these words? They are really great, right? Well, I don't have a lot of actions to keep them real. So, my plan this year was to work that focus word of intention into the mix. I also know that I can't tackle it all at once with a gigantic strategy to suddenly eliminate cancer woes from my life. That will make me run so fast from each word that I'd never look back.
With intention, I can start small. I can tackle small chunks of my annual promises. Cancer fears have entwined themselves with my daily life. It's a constant battle, and I keep fighting them every day. I always look at the fight as a huge event that I must eliminate from my life by just snapping my fingers and changing my thinking. That has yet to work. Plan B entails keeping it a lot simpler than that. I started a new personal program by simply spending a little time on Sundays writing out my intentions for the week. That's a much smaller, simpler, achievable strategy then waking up one day deciding that fear is no longer a part of my life.
My Sunday intentions are only for the week, so they are quite achievable. I've done this for the first three weeks of 2018, and the process is keeping the cancer blues at bay. The intentions focus on the entire week's events, not just the cancer portion. Here's a typical list of my intentions:
1. I will write down three things at the end of each day I am grateful for.
2. I will exercise at least three times in the week - it can be walking 30 minutes to lifting weights or doing a longer run, if time permits.
3. I will stay focused on what I can control and not let the happenings of the week overwhelm me.
4. I will find at least 15 minutes (longer if possible) a day in which I pause, relax, read something light and fun for a bit (nothing serious, nothing cancer-related, nothing that will make me upset).
5. I will remember to take care of myself; no one else can.
I try to make everything on the list about taking care of myself, staying focused but not letting the hustle and bustle of the day get to me. I find that if write these intentions down in a notebook, calendar or journal, I go back to them and remember what I set out to do.
I have found that slowly but surely the stresses of the day are easing off the accelerator in terms of how they affect me. I find that I stress just a tad less about cancer. I find that I feel a bit better each day. Things don't see so overwhelming. I have a bit of a roadmap laid out for only the week. It's achievable. I have found that the cancer fears can really knock me back. The worry just takes over my life and pushes me into the cancer blues. With a focus on weekly intention setting, those blues are left behind, leaving my mind open to taking care of myself and enjoying each day a tad bit more, too.