Well, my previous post, where I was discussing the issues of survivorship, has become the most read, of all my pieces. It has provoked so much discussion throughout social media, which is very pleasing. Through this blog, I try and publicise issues, that people may find difficult to talk about. Also, our healthcare providers tend to ignore them, as there is not really a positive solution.
I speak from my experiences as a current patient who is having treatment and spending a lot of time in the system. My pieces are up to date and based on what is actually happening. You may be reading plenty of reports from different areas, but I can tell you exactly what is happening now.
My subject this week is about the contrasting ways which people deal with their cancer. This has come about, as for the first time in at least 3 years, I am physically able to go abroad for a week. (Whoopy!!) But I am struggling to get up to date with my writing and phone calls before I go. I also have several high profile events that I can’t attend, as I will be away!
Since my illness, I have given over my time to raising awareness of the issues faced by people affected by cancer. This is all tumour types, not just my own. I have seen so many problems in these areas, that I thought I might try and frustrate myself further, by trying to solve some!!
Although, when I was diagnosed, I had decided that I wasn’t going to be dictated to by cancer, and become a victim of it. However It does now dominate my life. Not from fear, but as an adversary. I know that I am unable to change my own situation, but I am determined to try and help others, deal with their lives, so that cancer doesn’t wreak so much havoc.
I have chosen to immerse myself in this world, and people often ask me if I would be better doing something that didn’t involve cancer. My problem is that I have had continual treatment, on and off for nearly 6 years, so my involvement is still there, whether I like it or not. So I would find it very difficult to actually switch off. As I have mentioned previously, there are times when being a cancer patient is a project in itself!
During my many hospital visits and numerous social media communications, I am very refreshed, by so many people, that barely mention their disease. As best they can, they have tried to claw their life back from the jaws of cancer.A proportion have been able to return to some form of working life, others have been taken to the bosom of their family, and are enjoying some quality time with their children/grandchildren.
Despite suffering with side effects of treatment, they are doing their best to recreate their old life. They seem genuinely shocked, that I spend most of my spare time, either talking or writing about cancer and fundraising. Obviously,I have learned so much about it, that I can now hold reasonable conversations with physicians, but they say that, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and in this instance there is an element of truth.
I notice a certain amount of ‘innocence’ amongst the people I know, that have chosen to ‘move on,’ with their life. In their conversations, the subject of cancer, rarely rears it’s head, and actually I feel guilty, when asked about my own situation, as I know that it will prompt a conversation that they may not want.In some respects I am quite envious of this style of coping. Outwardly, there is no sign that cancer had been a part of their life. Although I am very aware that the situation is not the same mentally, as everyone will carry those scars forever.
My style, has always been to face a problem full on, which I feel I have done with my own issues, but something has directed me to the path that I have chosen. I very much enjoy what I do, although it can be all consuming at times, but I have become more disciplined with my time now. I guess for me it is about the challenges around cancer, and to see if, in my limited time, I can improve things, for others!
How do you deal with your cancer? Have you tried to put it to the back of your mind? Or do you throw yourself into helping others? Maybe you just want to move on, like a majority of people?
Living with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, I have to say that it’s never out of my mind! Day to day, I make conscious choices for health and I have a website that helps others do the same. For better or worse, I live in a world colored by cancer. But that has made all the other colors that much brighter!
I’ve also made a dramatic change from working in finance to building the Anti-Cancer Club (stay tuned; we have some very cool products in the pipeline for next year!) My cancer battle cry is Carpe Diem, and I do! I can’t control the path of my cancer (as the periodic need for chemo reminds me loud and clear!). But I can control my daily choices (nutrition, exercise, stress management and connection) and I focus my efforts there.
I also see people avoiding the issue, running back to their “safe” lives as soon as they can. I understand their reaction, but I think they’re doing themselves a disservice both physically and emotionally.
Physically, something in your “terrain” allowed the cancer to take hold. We all have cancer cells in our bodies, but they don’t always become a health issue. So what was it that may have triggered the disease? Is your diet healthy? Is your life happy? Do you have stress management skills available when you need them? Do you exercise? Do you have a network of people that you can connect with?
During a recent conversation, Bernie Siegel asked a great question: How would you describe your experience? This question can be applied to anything. Breakfast, marriage, job, kids…
Stop for a minute and think. How do you FEEL, then listen to yourself. Bernie’s advice was to examine the things/people/situations that drain your energy.
I’m currently reading a fascinating classic book , Man’s Search for Meaning. Let me share a few quotes that may be of interest vis a vis this topic:
Viktor Frankl writes:
“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life …This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone…”
“The prisoner who had lost faith in the future—his future—was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay…”
Perhaps the lack of personal meaning in one’s life combined with the fear of death is too painful for many to contemplate. Avoidance may be the less inspired but temporarily self-preserving path of choice.
But if you choose to see cancer as a learning experience, I think it has much to teach. Choosing to grow is never easy; choosing the status quo is never hard. I think Einstein sums it up best:
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
Pat Wetzel, Founder and Member Anti-Cancer Club
Many thanks for the above comments! Your story is one that we can all learn from and I thank you for sharing some of it with myself and the readers.
This is exactly why I write this blog, so that we can all share our experiences and learn from each other. Everyday I hear people’s stories and I am amazed by how cancer can inspire people to do such incredible work. Your own story is certainly one of those.
I wish you luck with all the new exciting developments, in the Anti-Cancer Club, and look forward to hearing all about them.
Thank you so much Pat, and good luck with your personal stuff. Chris. Carpe Diem!!
Sharing in this online community, amongst the organizations, forums, blogs and the people navigating the cancer challenges – personally, I’ve come to love when people share the parts of themselves that are not defined by cancer. It’s always uplifting, interesting and shows a humanity that makes this community all the stronger. We’re here to support each other, but also to celebrate life without cancer as well. 🙂 For me, that’s a very good way to find balance. ~Catherine
I agree with you. The online community, is an amazing place!! We can all share the good and the bad, and learn from each others experiences. You also mention a very important point which some times gets overlooked, and that is, we have a life without cancer. At times it is difficult to find a balance, as it seems that the disease tends to dominate, wherever it appears!
I would like to take this opportunity of thanking you for your regular comments Catherine, which I know the readers thoroughly enjoy, and learn a lot from. Also for the great support that you and your colleagues offer through your online community. Chris
I cope by way of blogging. Writing about what has happened to me gives me clarity that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And, it has connected me to so many others who understand the terror and process that comes with cancer. That has been a great side effect!
Thanks for writing such an honest blog.
I love your blog Renn! Thank you for your comments. Blogging helps me too, but I didn’t see that as a benefit, when I first started writing. I write for everyone to share, but I certainly feel better when I have completed a post.
It is a great way for us to learn from others but I have learned a lot about myself too, so I understand exactly what you are saying.
The benefits of social media are many, and the fact that we can connect to so much experience is one of them. Thank you for sharing your work too, and I wish you well on your personal journey.
Your comments are much appreciated! Chris