I’m beginning a series of posts related to my experience dealing with cancer, Coping with Cancer: 20 Ways to Find Calm in the Midst of a Health Storm. I won’t be posting these every day, so if you’ve not been affected by cancer and don’t really feel these posts will be relevant to you – no worries. I will be posting other info that I hope will be useful to you. However, much of what will be included in these posts would be relevant to anyone facing a significant health challenge.
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Coping with cancer is a learned art that evolves throughout your diagnosis, treatment, and – I’m guessing – for years to come. I’m less than two years into this ride, but I’ve experienced enough of it to know that my coping mechanisms are constantly changing.
There are as many different opinions on how to go about this as there are people with cancer. No one way works best for each individual. The method, process, and steps involved are unique to each person, form of cancer, life experience, and religious beliefs. It would be great if there were a 12-step process to guide you through from beginning to end, but there’s not. We all have to stumble, climb, and crawl our way through our new reality.
There are, however, some things I’ve learned in the past year+ that have helped me deal with this ugly, unkind, unwanted diagnosis – and I’m hoping they will help you, too.
If you’re not confused,
you’re not paying attention.
The first emotion I felt was confusion. Truthfully, before I heard the word lymphoma, I didn’t really know what it was. I thought it was a form of cancer, but did not know enough about to know whether I should freak out or remain calm. Just thinking about it makes my hands tremble a bit as I tap on this keyboard.
The way the moment takes place may be different for everyone, but the emotions and the physical reactions it evokes within each of us are undoubtedly similar: fear, anxiety, nausea, heart palpitations. And for me, just plain ‘ole confusion. “Really??? How in the world? What is lymphoma? Hmmpphh.”
What added to the confusion was that I was not told “You have _____. We will begin treatment next week.” My initial diagnosis was general – simply lymphoma. We had to wait weeks . . . correct that, months, for the “official” specific diagnosis.
There were three ways I dealt with the immediate confusion: 1) opened my Bible, 2) talked to my husband, family and close friends and 3) researched lymphoma. Two of them were helpful; the third was not.
For whatever was written
was given to us for our learning,
that through patience and comfort of the scriptures
we might have hope.
My Bible, my husband, family and close friends kept me grounded and prevented me from getting too far out into the fear stratosphere. It also reminded me how much I am loved and provided me with a soft place to land when my thoughts stopped racing and settled on reality. At this stage, researching lymphoma was not super helpful because I knew so little about my specific diagnosis. The research left me swinging between hopeful and utterly terrified. I decided until we knew more details, I needed to keep my Google searches to a minimum.
If you are a cancer patient, survivor, thriver, fighter, struggler, or coper – what was the first emotion you experienced after your diagnosis?