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 suggests what life after mid-life can be, even for cancer survivors.
The children are out of the house. There is a sense of slowing down. This is cancer survivorship — so far. What can the rest of life look like; those allegedly golden years? There is a sense of curiosity and of course, fear of recurrence. I want to try to cultivate the curiosity rather than the fear, I think.
After two cancers, one tends to become cautious. I am fortunate; I can measure my survivorship of each cancer in years. I am still here. I think that is a mantra that everyone who has or has had cancer could repeat each day to themselves. Today, we are here. Now, what to do with this very precious time?
As a writer and a reader, I have been exploring the question of what to do (and maybe not do) in this third phase of life; this final phase. “Final” sounds negative, but even for a glass-half-empty person like me, I don't think it really needs to be negative. Joy is still available be experienced.
There are some — but maybe not enough – books and resources out there to help. I have been enjoying Julie Cameron's book, “It's Never Too Late to Begin Again.” I also have been reading “Younger Next Year.” Isn't that optimistic for a cancer survivor? And by the way, did you know it is harder to make poor eating choices when just reading a book for 50-plus-year-olds that includes eating and exercise information? As cancer survivors, we still and especially benefit from ongoing information and motivation about our health.
Because my children are grown and out of our house, I sometimes miss having us all under one roof. After raising them and spending too much time "supersizing" our life with stuff, I feel ready to downsize and to enjoy more quietly. There is a sense of wrapping things up and plans to have new adventures — exploring these topics may become my third book! One desire doesn't override the other; there can be balance. It will probably look different for each of us. I want to organize photographs and information for my children. I also want to continue to travel, to learn new things and to improve upon things I already do. What about you? There can be celebration and loss during this time of life. It feels like we are just beginning to explore the possibilities of these final chapters. We can experiment. We can do trial and error. Above all, we can be grateful we are here to explore and test the waters.
We may not have as much control over our lives as we think we have, and yet we do have control over more than cancer wants us to think. Pick up the reins again and work to move forward with as upbeat an attitude as you can manage and proceed with curiosity. Curiosity, a willingness to be proactive and a willingness to try are key. Don't hand over those keys to cancer!
Getting cancer is a negative, no doubt about it. Still, we have learned from it, and we can use those lessons as we move forward. I hope my cancers are helping me become less selfish and less materialistic. Maybe my cancers can also help me to grow my compassion. What cancer life lessons have you learned and what is out there for you to explore and to try?