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.
A two-time cancer survivor shares the good that eventually came from her cancer experiences.
I survived two different kinds of cancer, and now I am being monitored for a potential third one. Still, at nine years out from my first cancer, breast cancer, I share that my cancer experience has not been all bad. If you are struggling with your cancer diagnosis, treatment, or survivorship, I hope my ideas will help you. In fact, I am also pretty sure that your own experiences will eventually provide some ideas that I missed below. Remember, I said 'eventually.'
Brave and strong? No, not me - just ask the friends and family who helped me the first time. Still, I am working on it, and I am stronger and braver than I was before cancer. One of my surgeons even called me brave and when I denied it, he reminded me that sometimes bravery is not being stoic. A person can go through something kicking and screaming and they still get credit for doing what needed to be done. We do what we need to do to get through something, and yes, we are stronger for it - even me, so yes, even you.
Better listener? Maybe I am, years later, after cancer treatments. At the time, there was too much me, me, me, and I regret that. Maybe the kinds of life traumas we have or haven't had before cancer appears influences how we react? What about now? I hope I am becoming a more supportive friend and family member and a better listener too. Sometimes it can take something like cancer to teach us how to connect better with other people.
Kinder? Not at the time of diagnosis and treatment for me, but I hope kindness is a process that I am getting better at practicing kindness daily. I don't always succeed in being as kind as I wish to be. None of us do, but we can be out there trying and making more of an effort. As people who understand suffering, we can be kinder when others around us experience loss or suffering. We understand the importance of connecting with people during our daily lives.
Better at living in the moment? This is where relief as a cancer survivor can be found. Seize the day! Survivors are great at worrying about the future - especially worrying about their cancer returning. To learn to live in the moment is a helpful coping tool. It includes practicing gratitude, appreciating nature, and slowing down the worry brain to focus on the moment. This includes the ability to choose to re-prioritize our day in a heartbeat if needed to help people around us. Initiate a conversation now. Compliment now. Apologize now. Listen now. Help now. You get the idea.
Life will always throw curve balls, whether they involve physical or mental health concerns, career problems, relationship difficulties, financial worries, or other troubles. Give yourself the kindness of focusing on what is going right instead of wrong. Especially as a cancer survivor, you deserve this! As cancer survivors, we can find the positives nestled in among cancer's many negatives. Plus, you can pass your kindness along by sharing what you have learned with the rest of us!