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Life is a Journey
The moment you receive the news you are battling cancer is the moment that your life changes in an instant.
Cancer knows no allies nor does it have any enemies. Cancer’s ruthless actions have no sympathy, compassion, empathy or mercy upon its victims. As a clinician, I have spent countless hours consoling those suffering with a variety of cancers; their loved ones and believe it or not; I have spent an untold number of hours consoling the practitioners and those aiding the victims of cancer.
Tragically, cancer is often thrust upon you without warning or rationale. As we all know, there are cases of cancer that are related to lifestyle and choices; but no one, and I mean no one, deserves it.
Reflection on a Case Involving Cancer
Many years ago, I had a case involving a patient who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time, the young man was only a few years older than myself. He was a healthy, vibrant and ambitious person. He had just signed on with a major corporation as an executive, when he received the untimely news that he had been diagnosed. After the young man was informed of his condition by his primary care physician; he sought out counselling. I soon realized that his desire for therapeutic care was less about the cancer and more about the possibility of his life ending abruptly. Frequently, when we hear the word cancer, it stimulates an automatic response and an assumption of struggling physically and the possibility of an untimely death. Cancer is unlike many other diagnoses for it is plagued with a barrage of stigmas, phobias and human fear.
Be Aware of the Journey
The journey can often feel the most arduous. The hardest part for many is simply the unknown and the unfamiliar. Will I be capable of battling and conquering this disease? What if, I go through the many painstaking procedures and my cancer metastasizes? What if, the chemo is ineffective? Will all of this painstaking work simply be null and void? Ultimately, how will my loved ones be effected by this process? The thoughts are random and may not always make sense, but do not dismiss them. You are entitled to having such thoughts. As your journey continues, you must recognize that you are entitled to any thought, random or not, and you may not always find the answer. You may not answer the “why me” or the unfairness around the disease, but find comfort in knowing that you are not alone on this journey. While such advice may not ease your pain, try finding solace in your meaning of life. Be certain to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to allow others to offer support.
As you follow your path of treatment and care, be aware that you need to insulate yourself from negativity. Believe it or not, you may also find yourself struggling with negative thoughts and entertaining others. Do not allow yourself to go down paths that are self-defeating or of self-doubt. Remember, you are on a journey of discovery and the most challenging of journeys are filled with the greatest lessons in life.
Never Giving Up
You are like an Olympic athlete. There are days of doubt and self-defeat. You may entertain a barrage of negative thoughts but do not give up and do not lose hope.
1) You may consider creating a bucket list, but this is not to be your final destination.
2) Do not drastically change your daily routines. Routines are our way of finding meaning in life.
3) Positive support is a key element in recovery.
4) Do not allow blame or shame to be an additional part of your condition. Frequently, people are seeking to find meaning and the causation of his or her cancer.
5) Do not allow the negative thoughts of others or those that you may entertain to plague your thoughts.
6) As many who are suffering from the effects of cancer; you may feel personal guilt or remorse for the way you have lived your life thus far. Do not allow these past events to prevent you from changing and living your life in a positive way. By the way, we have all made mistakes; do not allow your mistakes to define you.
7) Remember to be in tune with your body. Your body may react in a variety of ways including: sudden weight loss or gain; fatigue; nauseousness; sleep complications; hypo or hyperactivity; chronic headaches and bodily pain; and a variety of other physiological effects. Be familiar with your physical limitations and your overall needs.
8) Be aware of the psychological and emotional effects of cancer. Depression, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, forgetfulness, irritability, hostility, anger, rage, hopelessness are a few of the possible effects of cancer. By the way, none of them are unusual responses to battling cancer.
Never Give Up, Never Give In
Those who choose to fight the disease are on a journey. The journey may prove arduous at times, but remember you are like an Olympian with the ultimate prize being your ability to live life. Fight a good fight and prove victorious in the pursuit to overcome. Being diagnosed with cancer is the ultimate life challenge. When you begin to experience feelings of hopelessness and despair reflect upon this idea. You have it within you, the ability to overcome. Prove yourself the victor in this ultimate triathlon.
Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S. is an author, speaker, advocate and clinician in Canada and the United States. He provides those he serves, the effective tools for communication, interaction, and essentials for living life abundantly. He has achieved the merits of a PhD in Psychology with a Specialization in Clinical Psychology. Visit: asadonbrown.com