Some breast cancer survivors get complimented for facing their cancer treatment with courage and grace. I look back, four years out from chemotherapy, and I think, I got through my cancer with tears and fears. Are some people braver then others? Or do we differ in how we show our tears and fears? I don’t know.
I cried and worried my way through breast cancer treatment and the hormone driven and steroid driven emotional roller coast ride of my surgeries and treatments. I didn’t put a graceful face forward. My close friends and mediate family saw my tears and heard extensively about my fears. Looking back, maybe I should have spared them?
Maybe. We all have our burdens in life—health issues, broken relationships, financial or career struggles. It was okay to feel what I was feeling, but, in hindsight, maybe I could have toned down how I expressed it to others.
I did go through my cancer honestly with those around me. I wrote about my cancer honestly. In the end, does it even matter? Both the courageous graceful patients and the tears and fears cancer patients get through their treatment. Both, whether they share it outwardly or not, live with fear of recurrence and with the uncertainty for the rest of their lives. Cancer takes its toll either way, but today I am still here. I am blessed and grateful.
Cancer isn’t a fight or a battle. I am not a brave warrior. I am a woman. Cancer isn’t a gift. I didn’t get a special present. Cancer is a disease. When you get cancer, you suffer, you learn, you grow, and, over time, more or less time than you would like, you live and then you die. While you are living, you live with a cancer-enhanced awareness of your own mortality and what might be lurking within your body, and you live with constant uncertainty. Uncertainty is hard for most of us as human beings. No one wants to live long term with uncertainty. Cancer survivors do just that.
Realty check: We ALL live with uncertainty. Some of us are just less aware of it than others. Having had cancer and living with the ongoing fear of recurrence just makes cancer survivors more aware of it on a very daily, intimate cellular and emotional level.
So what is having cancer really about? It is about getting through a very personal very difficult time. The advice in my book is hard-won advice that I learned the hard way—by digging in and getting through this life experience—twice. First, my breast cancer and, a couple years later, a melanoma.
Here are a few of my coping tools (I didn’t make this stuff up—I researched.):
Connect with others—don’t go it alone, even if you are an introvert or loner.
Learn—knowledge is power and helps you regain some measure of control.
Live in the moments—slow down the monkey brain (racing thoughts).
Gratitude—focus each day on what makes you grateful.
Uncertainty—work on greater flexibility and learning to accept less control.
Ultimately, I learned coping tools that work for getting through many of life’s less happy times. I increased the number of those tools in my tool bag and you can too!
By Barbara Tako
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor since 2010 and a melanoma survivor since 2014. Beginning in 1998, Barbara Tako has been a professional seminar leader, speaker, and published writer on clutter clearing and home organizing. She has appeared on television, radio, and other media venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children, and dogs. Her books are available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com, or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.