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.
Don't let the excuse of cancer run your life or stop you from doing all that you want.
If you or someone you know went through cancer, you know how tough it is. You know how quickly it can change the direction of your life, destroy the plans you had in place, and I could go on and on. Trust me, I know it first-hand. I was 32 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was a single woman focused on my career and thought nothing would stop me. Then that lump in my breast stopped me in my tracks and everything changed. I no longer felt powerful; I gave up on my career and forget about a personal life. How was I supposed to date or think about my future when I didn't even think I had a future? Yes, I know this all sounds negative, but that's how I felt. No need to sugarcoat it.
The good news is that was eight years ago, and I feel better now than I did then.
I did my best not to make excuses for myself during and after cancer treatment. I used cancer as the excuse when I was too tired to do something. I did my best to work during treatment, although I did have to take some time off. You can't force your body to something it just doesn't have the energy for. I made sure to still make it out with my friends when they had a girl's night or planned a dinner. Of course, I listened to my body, and if it didn't feel right, I didn't go. Sick or not, it is always important to listen to your body and take care of yourself.
So, what do I mean when I say stop the cancer excuses? Long after my treatment ended, I used cancer to get me out of things I just didn't like to do or want to do. The biggest? Dating. I was not a huge fan of dating prior to cancer. Anyone who has tried it will probably get this right away. Dating is hard. Dating is scary. Dating can be annoying. Unless you meet that special person early in the game, it can be a tedious practice. After cancer, though, finding excuses not to date is crazy easy. I latched on to any excuse I could muster going down the road of “I have too many scars,” “my hair is just growing back,” “people won't understand,” etc. It was too easy to use cancer as an excuse.
The other thing I used the cancer excuse for is my emotions. I spent years living behind the fears of cancer and recurrence. I just hid there and latched onto the excuse of cancer to allow me to stay fearful and not face anything. No one wanted to touch that, so they let me be. It was so much easier to blame cancer, use it as an excuse and allow my life to be controlled by it. Well, the only person that was affecting was me. I allowed cancer to win and be the excuse. I allowed it to eat up my memories and trigger me into living in constant fear. The excuse of cancer let me wallow in my sorrows and tip me to the verge of full depression before I finally opened my eyes.
I've talked about it many times, but I allowed the excuse of cancer to block me from seeking the help I couldn't give myself. I think it is fair to say that cancer can be one of, if not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Maybe you experienced it yourself or you know someone else going through it.
My recommendation to anyone going through cancer is simple. Stop the cancer excuses —before they even start if possible. Cancer can cause physical exhaustion, mental anguish and loads of other issues. Take care of yourself first and foremost, but don't let the cancer excuses blossom further like I allowed them to do. Don't let them block the good in your life. Don't use them as a crutch to not date and put yourself out there like I did. And most importantly, don't let those excuses stop you from getting the help you may need to deal with your emotions. Trust me, the cancer excuses don't work, but stopping them most certainly does.