There are plenty of resources out there regarding cancer prevention, cancer treatment, cancer statistics, cancer anything but very few offer real life advice. Ummm, that sucks!What do I even do?!
How do I move on?
How can I feel "normal"again?
How do I not freak the f*@k out at the drop of a hat?
Is having fun possible?
When will I be able to breathe?
This just doesn't work in my schedule...
Totally uncharted territory, right?
I thought it may be a good idea to offer some of the tips and tricks I learned to cope with cancer. My plan is to do this over the next few weeks in three separate posts: diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.
- breathe : Yes you can, promise. In through your nose (count to four), out through your mouth (count to four). When you feel your heart start racing again, remind yourself to breathe. Also, is your tongue relaxed? Trust me. Make it relax.
- make a plan : Think super small scale here. ALWAYS have something to look forward to. For example; you probably have 9,674 doctor appointments coming up. Plan to do something after each and every one of them. Regardless of what type of appointment it is, make a plan. Go out to eat. Go to the park. Go see a movie. Meet a friend at the mall. Something. Anything.
- make a plan : Redundant much? ;) Now I'm talking a little bigger picture. Plan to get multiple opinions. Plan how and when to share the news of your diagnosis with family/friends/coworkers. *my point here is to
plancontrol anything you can because those things are going to be few and far between for a while*
- come up with a daily stopping point : At the beginning, it can feel like you have a mile long list of phone calls, emails, appointments, scans and tests; create an end time for each day. For me, I figured since the doctors offices closed around 5pm, so did cancer. "Cancer time" ended at 5pm. No more cancer talk. No more cancer thoughts. Try to turn it off. You are still you, so ACT LIKE IT! Once your stopping point has come, go through the motions of "normal", even if you don't want to. Pretend. Fake it 'til you make it. (It's so so hard to not let thoughts of cancer consume you--but try. I know you won't be perfect at this, but try.)
- let people "help you" : People need to help you. They don't know what to do. They feel completely helpless and out of control (join the club, right?) By cooking you dinner, driving you to an appointment or calling 100 times a day they are "helping." They care about you! Whatever your friends and loved ones offer to do for you, let them! Let them feel as though they are helping. They need it. *My mom came up with a really good idea during my diagnosis/treatment. People were constantly saying "whatever you need..." &"how can I help?" [Of course the only thing we needed was to not have cancer haha] Mom suggested people send me gift cards to local restaurants. So, when I needed to eat but didn't have an appetite, I could flip through the gift cards and pick a place! We could either go out or send someone to pick up take out. It ended up being WONDERFUL for me during treatment and enabled our loved ones to help. *
- change your thinking : Hospitals are no fun, agreed? Just days after I found out that I had cancer I spoke with a fellow survivor. He gave me many pieces of great advice, but one in particular stood out. He suggested I think of my time in the hospital as a vacation. [go with it, ok] While you are there you don't have to take care of yourself. Let them "pamper" you. You are their responsibility. So kick back and relax! Once I shifted my way of thinking about hospitals/doctors offices I chilled out a bit. Of course continue to be your own advocate while you're at the hospital.
- stay away from google : For real. You do not want to read what the internet has to say about your illness. It's doom and gloom and crazy! Fun fact about cancer statistics: Lets say you were diagnosed on Friday with breast cancer. That Sunday on your way home from church you are killed in a car accident. You count as a breast cancer death! Bottom line is to ask YOUR DOCTOR any questions you have about your disease, not google.
- go to your appointments : It's fight or flight time. Except flight isn't really an option. You aren't hiding from this and you don't want to.
- talk to somebody : I don't care who you are; find somebody who is not emotionally attached to you to talk to about your situation. Period. Not negotiable. You need to talk. Schedule this NOW.
Lastly,YOU CAN DO THIS!
Cancer sucks. No arguing with that. It's absolutely terrifying. But you can handle it.
If ANYONE ever wants to talk about dealing with cancer I'm ALWAYS available and I'd love to talk.
email: marrymintamanda (at) gmail (dot) com
I will say this for the rest of my life: "One of the greatest blessings of being a cancer survivor is being able to help someone else cope with this shit-tastic disease." (I should make that more poetic, huh?)
I hope you're grabbing this Wednesday by the balls! ;)
In other news...Mallory rolled over today!