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Self-care lessons from 3 fearless cancer survivors

0 Heart it! Cynthia Madison 12
November 1, 2018
Cynthia Madison
0 Heart it! 12

Relief. Joy. Gratitude. The hope of being given the chance of a new start. Surviving cancer is a tremendous success and a reason for celebration that can give your life a newfound sense of purpose and faith. But being a cancer survivor also has a darker side that is rarely talked about: post-cancer depression. After the initial bliss of finally being cured, cancer survivors can experience a whirlwind of burdensome and crippling emotions that keep them from enjoying their life and connecting with their friends and families.

 

Practicing self-love and self-care after surviving cancer is a crucial part of the follow-up treatment, not only because you deserve to be happy and get your life back, but also because your state of mind syncs with your health. These fearless cancer survivors share how they felt after being cured and how they learned to practice self-care:

 

 
Martin S.: Acknowledge your negative thoughts and seek help
I was diagnosed with oral cancer at 47 and was confirmed cancer-free at 49. Before that, I never once had experienced depression. I was the jolliest person in the family, the life of the party and the one to be optimistic about everything. I powered through the treatment like a model patient, I was strong and hopeful. But soon after I was cured, I couldn’t get back to that state of mind. I knew I should be happy, but instead I found myself worrying that the cancer would come back. I didn’t know how to explain this to myself, it didn’t make sense, and I was ashamed to talk about it to anyone. As it turned out, I wasn’t alone in all of this. My doctor told me that post-cancer depression is more than common and that all survivors experience it at one point after finishing treatment. Knowing that was I was going through was normal and that other people out there were experiencing the same thing pushed me to go to therapy and enroll in a support group for cancer survivors. After a few months of therapy, I can’t say that the negative thoughts aren’t there anymore, but I have learned to tune them out and refocus on my family.

 
Paola R: Put yourself first and live your life to the fullest
 

I was a completely different person before being diagnosed with lymphoma. Quiet, reserved, always the one who dreamt about going on adventures but never the one to plan them. When post-cancer depression followed, my self-confidence was at an all-time low and I felt meaningless almost every morning. Not having anything to do also triggered my fears. In my head, every small pain I had was a sign that the cancer was coming back. It took me a while, but with support from my friends, I found the motivation to go out there and look for a job. I started dating again. Every week, I started doing something new that I had always wanted to try, but never mustered the courage for. I got a personal trainer and started travelling more, sometimes even alone. Right now, I’m training for my first half marathon, something I didn’t even fathom before being diagnosed. The truth is that cancer is merciless and all survivors know that at one point it could come back. You can’t control that, but you can control how you live your life. Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. I read this quote many times, but it was my cancer survival journey that made me truly understand it.

 
Eric E. – Your body is a temple, take good care of it!
 

When my doctor diagnosed me with colon cancer I was in shock for weeks, although when I think of it, I had all the risk factors: male, late 50s, smoker, overweight, sedentary office job and an unhealthy high-fat diet. Fortunately, they caught it early and the colon cancer treatment, combined with a proctocolectomy, gave me a second chance. I wished I could be relived, but not a day went by without me feeling guilty for not taking care of my body. With no history of cancer in my family, I was convinced I was the one who caused this – not just the disease, but also all the stress, worry and financial burden to my family. I struggled with this a lot, until I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t turn back time, but I could take measures for this not to happen again. We really take our bodies for granted and don’t realize how often we use junk for fuel, so for me, this was a wakeup call to take better care of myself. I started to eat healthier, be more active, have a better work-life balance and focus on my wellbeing. I go to yoga classes every week and never go to sleep without spending a few minutes with my favorite meditation app. The annual blood tests and scans that I used to completely ignore are now one of my priorities and I talk to my doctor regularly about my health concerns.

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0 Heart it! Cynthia Madison 12
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