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.
Making predictions on how cancer will affect your life from diagnosis to post treatment is a waste of time. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.
I am a planner. I've been planning out everything from outfits I'd be wearing the next day to where I want to live in five years. I love calendars and daily planners where I can write down everything and see exactly what is happening in my life. So, of course I was shocked with a cancer diagnosis. Let's see, I don't see that action point planned out in my diary for July 10, 2010. “There goes my whole life plan,” I thought. And, in some ways, it definitely did get thrown out the window. However, as with the way life works, new plans arose, and I continue on with my life. It's taken years of living in the post-cancer-diagnosis world for me to get to this line of thinking. I learned the hard way that you just can't constantly make predictions and/or plan everything out. You will miss your entire life if you do that.
What kind of predictions did I make on cancer? Well, tons and tons. I was so blindsided by a diagnosis of breast cancer when I was 32 years old and wanted to be sure that rug was never pulled from under me again. So, I took my planning and predicting to a whole new level. I wanted immediate answers to the following questions:
• How did I get cancer in the first place? I wanted to put a plan in place for never getting it again.
• Why did I get it? (Good luck with ever getting an answer on that question.)
• Will my treatment work?
• How long will I live? I repeatedly asked my doctors to give me the timing — what year and/or what day will I die from cancer? Oh, the looks I got. Hey, I am a planner, I NEED to know these things
• Will the cancer come back again? And, the obvious follow up question: what day will that be?
These are questions with unknown answers. Nobody knows any of the answers, yet the urge for us to know is intense. I am sure it is safe to say that not everyone wants answers to the questions in the detail that I do, but I suppose we all linger on these questions one way or another.
The overall connection with the cancer questions I always ask? The answers are only predictions. Unless someone has a working crystal ball (contact me if you do) any answer we receive from those questions is only a prediction. Sorry to burst everyone's bubble here, but making predictions, especially on cancer, just doesn't work. They don't suit us, and they can harm us more than help us. I've been trying to predict every happening in my life for years. I got more obsessed with that when cancer decided to be my best friend. I was so sure I was not going to live until my 40th birthday because I had already predicted my death from cancer, that when it actually came, I almost didn't know how to celebrate it. I've gotten so obsessed with fear of recurrence that I've gotten pretty bad at living the day as I wake up to it each morning.
With all that being said, I've decided to start working on making less cancer predictions. I've been wrong more than right. I didn't predict I'd get it and I did. I thought I'd already be dead from it and yet I am still alive. It's time to tone down those cancer predictions. I think it is safe to say that I can't 100 percent just turn them off, but I can slow myself down from getting so attached to them. I can let them linger as long as they don't ruin my day to day. It doesn't hurt to make some predictions in life and it's fine to plan things out. However, keep it in perspective and under control. Just enjoy today and the moment. Don't let the predictions take over the facts.