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.
I spend so much time trying to go back to the past or predict the future that I tend to forget how to live in today's moments.
Hello today! I am not sure we have met before. I like to turn my back on you and run back to the past whenever possible. My other favorite thing to do is to skip over you and look right into the future. No wait, that's not entirely true. I like to pretend I can see into the future and predict exactly what will happen to me before it even has a chance. Oh, and I should also mention this almost always entails how my life will be affected by cancer again.
I was thinking, well actually more like fearing cancer the other day, and I quickly realized just how little I spend actually living today. I have to imagine I am not the only one who does this. In fact, I used to be pretty good about worrying about everything else besides the actual moment I was living in, long before cancer ever graced me with its presence. Cancer just seemed to make it worse. First, I am one of those people that always needs to know the how and why. Why did I get cancer? How did it happen? I didn't have family history, which now I realize is not the only factor. But eight years ago, when I was diagnosed, that seemed a surprise. I didn't smoke, I exercised, and my favorite is I was "too young." Unfortunately for me and my inquiries, I most likely will never know the hows and whys of my cancer diagnosis — but that doesn't mean it doesn't scare me.
So, take that into perspective when trying to figure out how to live in the moment. I flat out don't know how. I kept running to the past and wondering what I did or didn't do to cause my body to have breast cancer at 32 years old. Then I jumped over living in today's moments again by trying to fast forward to the future fueled by more panic because now I want to know the hows and whys of whether or not the cancer I had will come back or if a new cancer will form. I am not sure how often other people think this, but the biggest question I have is if the cancer comes back, I'd like to know exactly when and then more specifically, when will I die from it. I know how this sounds. I know that it seems pretty negative, but it is just what runs through my head. It's what keeps me from hanging out with today.
It's been extremely rough for me to figure out a way to get myself in today's moments. OK, so it's taken about eight years. It's taken a lot of time talking to therapist and learning new tricks to get my brain out of yesterday's cancer and tomorrow's what-ifs. Here are a couple quick tips that might help if you suffer from the same refusal to live in today's moments such as I have over the years.
1. Breathe. Yeah, we do this anyway, why not take a moment and concentrate on it. Trust me, this clears the mind and does work. It's quite relaxing.
2. Write out what's happening in your “today” moment. This is a nice way to plan for NOW, not two years down the road or five years ago. What I mean is start your day by taking a notebook and just write one or two sentences about today. For example, you can write "today I am sitting down and enjoying my coffee for five minutes before I start work." Really, it's anything to just get you grounded into the happenings of the day you are living right now.
3. Find a mantra or greeting to get you going for the day. Every day, before I leave my house for work, I say "Accept. Believe. Conquer." It's just a quick reminder to me of what my focus needs to be. I accept where I am at right now. I believe I have done everything I can to fight the cancer I had. I know I can conquer those fears at least for today.
It's not easy to get back into this mindset, but some practice, well, a lot of practice, it can happen. Today is waiting for you, so why not greet it and start living in it — today!