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.
Two-time cancer survivor suggests a careful approach when researching your own cancer.
As a fellow cancer survivor and cancer writer, I don't want to make you sad(er). I don't want to stir up (more) negative feelings. Above all, I don't want you to feel lonely(er) about your cancer diagnosis. Sometimes my writing stems from selfishness — ranting about me, me, me in my struggles against cancer fear and worry. I sometimes have myself a little cancer-related tirade. I tell myself that I am helping others, and sometimes maybe I am. Other times, I am standing on my writing platform or spouting off in my journal sounding my own little cancer horn.
Lately when I look at the media and politics, I question the helpfulness of my publicly shared opinions. I am spurred to try to be less inflammatory and more helpful. Is what I share truly accurate? Is the advice solid advice? Is what I shared a year or two or longer ago true for cancer survivors reading it today? Possibly no, no and no. Knowledge changes over time. People change over time. Most importantly, understanding and science move forward.
I am not any type of medical or psychiatric professional. I am a patient, a cancer survivor. My opinions are exactly that — opinions. Opinions can be inaccurate and can change over time. What is the take-away? Read both sides of an issue. Hear both sides of an argument. Do your own research, preferably from multiple reliable sources and multiple fellow survivors. Hopefully it is current information. Be discerning. Above all, use your own judgment.
Choose your sources carefully. Be aware of each source's perspective and limitations. We are all only human. We are humans in a specific window of time. Plus, we can easily get caught in our feelings of the moment. The National Cancer Institute provides some guidance as does the American Cancer Society to sift discerningly through the cancer information available to you.
It can be helpful to read what other cancer survivors have to say. It is nice to hear from others who get it, who understand the cancer experience. It can also be hurtful. It can stir up needless fears and worry. There are a lot of blogs and Facebook posts for many specific kinds of cancers. Still, people tend not to post when things are going well but they are quick to share their difficulties when they arise. Keep in mind that a drug or treatment that did not go well for someone out on the internet may go just fine for you.
I recently reached out on the internet to inquire about the amount of pain and length of recovery for the next procedure coming up for my breast reconstruction process. I was dismayed by the range of responses: from a few days and "no big deal" to six weeks and "horrendous." When I thought about it, it made sense. Outcome and reactions depend on how a specific body responds, the skill of the surgeon, and the degree of this particular procedure, not to mention the drugs used in each specific case.
Please keep those thoughts in mind when you search and inquire "out there" too. Don't scare yourself. Limit your own "screen time" if needed and always run things by your own medical team. You too can and will get through this — with a little bit of discernment.