Have you recently been diagnosed with cancer?
If you have, then your world may be spinning out of control. You probably have hundreds of questions, but answers may be difficult to come by. It doesn’t help that you are being bombarded by treatment options, shock and the incredible reactions from friends and family.
I was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after having emergency brain surgery. I had an inclination that I had brain cancer, due to the urgency of the surgery. When my surgeon told me my tumor was malignant, I felt numb. About an hour after I left his office I wept, and an hour after that I felt overwhelmed and dumbfounded.
My doctor didn’t give me an instruction manual about coping with cancer, and Google searches inevitably lead to information about life expectancy (ugh). Eventually, I began learning how to effectively research and received random, helpful information from the Universe.
Looking back at that time, it would have been useful to have some strategies and tips for dealing with my new diagnosis.
Here are some of the strategies/actions that helped me to adapt to my “new” life with cancer:
1) Whatever you do, do not Google the words “life expectancy” for at least the first few months after diagnosis. First of all, (and this may be hard to grasp) life expectancy is based upon the middle of the bell curve. Whatever the average may be for life expectancy, a lot of people have survived longer than expected. I am a prime example and have outlived the life expectancy Dr. X gave me—he said I would be dead by now. Another reason not to look up life expectancy is to avoid putting more weight on your overburdened mind. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I cried a lot. Crying is a natural response—it’s noting to be ashamed of.
2) Avoid sad stories, especially those involving cancer, for a while. This strategy is trickier than the one above: you have to search for information on life expectancy on purpose, whereas sad (and crazy) news is all around us. When we turn on the news, there’s another terrorist attack or some other horrific recent event. It’s a lot to deal with during “normal” days, but too much for those who’ve been told we have a brain tumor. It’s also really difficult to her about other people dying from brain cancer, especially since most of those stories involve children.
Do your best to surround yourself with people and things that make you happy, and look away from horror and tragedy for a while. Don’t worry, bad news is not going anywhere.
3) Laugh. A lot. As much as possible.
4) Read Radical Remission by Dr. Kelly Turner immediately. We will hear the word “hope” a lot, but hearing about it and reading about actual cancer survivors are two different things. Dr. Turner’s book provides many examples of how remission is possible, even for those with the deadliest forms of cancer. Dr. Turner also has a website where people share survival stories.
5) Give yourself a break. I was so hard on myself after my diagnosis. My brain tumor was the official end of my “previous life.” My wife became the breadwinner, and I felt as guilty as hell. No matter what I did, no matter how many problems I solved, it was never enough. It took me a long time to realize that I have to cut myself a lot of slack. We are living with a deadly disease that can be physically and mentally exhausting.
6) “Do your best, but remember your best changes from moment to moment.” ~The Four Agreements. This country has a huge problem with the definition of the word “best.” We hear about it all the time in motivational posters, pep talks from coaches and celebrities. The truth about doing our best is radically different than what the media sells to us. Our best changes from moment to moment. One day, our best may be doing a ton of errands, meeting friends and writing a wonderful poem. Other days, our best may be making ourselves breakfast and sleeping most of the day. Doing your best and recognizing that it can change at any moment helps deliver a peaceful, easy feeling.
Author: Andrew Langerman
Image: static flickr
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock