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.
Connect yourself to items that can help you through your cancer journey.
Marie Kondo, a decluttering guru, suggests that clients pick up each item they own and "keep what sparks joy." She is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. As a fellow clutter-clearing (and now cancer) speaker-author, I agree. I think it is important for cancer patients and survivors to surround themselves with items that are supportive. Though it is the current rage to weed out and think minimalist thoughts, it is also important to surround yourself with the people and the things in life that support you through cancer.
Right now, I sit at my desk surrounded by a bit of, ah hem ah… clutter. This includes a little sign stating, "The Cabin Is My Happy Place," a small pottery dish from Florida with a few seashells I picked up on the beach there this winter, a carving of my name made by my father-in-law, one candle and two plants—one in a pot given to me by my eldest. If you knew me from my clutter-clearing book and talks, you might find this "clutter" a bit surprising.
I am not good at being brave or stoic. There are still tears over the loss of my parents and fears about cancer. The items at my desk remind me of happier times and anchor me in the moment. I touch the seashells, I read the cabin sign, and I water the plants. How do you comfort yourself?
The American Cancer Society offers ways to help you through cancer. Here are ten more ways to practice self-care with cancer. The trick is to go back to things that have comforted you in the past and also to try new things that might help this time. It also helps to connect with fellow survivors who understand what you are feeling because they are experiencing it themselves.
If you are a cancer patient or cancer survivor, I strongly encourage you to figure out simple things you can do to help comfort yourself. Do not be afraid to choose things that engage your senses—the sight of a postcard, the sounds of music you enjoy, the scent of a candle, the feel of scrunching yarn in your hands and even the taste of comfort food. Choose the things that work for you.
Sometimes, it may mean that you take the time and space to cry. It is definitely okay to cry. I cried off and on throughout active treatment. Even years out, something cancer-related can still pop up that makes tears come to my eyes. I am still fearful at times and I am definitely still processing the changing landscape of cancer survivorship.
Everyone has problems in their life—health, job and relationship problems are part of life. In a hectic world of change, it is important to have the coping tools to manage the difficult problems of life. Find the things that spark joy for you. Keep them nearby. Be grateful for the people in your life who help you through the rougher times. Cancer does not spark joy but there are other things in your life that still can. Take the time to find them and surround yourself with them. Above all, always remember that you are allowed to feel the way you feel.