After 11 months of diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for Breast Cancer, it is a time for me to summarize what I’ve learned. Here is my Top Ten list.
1) There is more to being positive than slapping a smiley face on a life or death health crisis.
Being positive during Cancer Treatment is having good days and horrible days. It means accepting yourself where you are on any given day. It means knowing you have the inner strength to hang on and get through it, even though some days you doubt it.
Being positive means you have hope for a good outcome when all of this horror is done, even when no one understands what you are going through.
2) Having the right medical team is essential. If you don’t feel you have the right medical team, find new doctors immediately. It is absolutely imperative that you trust your Medical Oncologist, Surgeon, and Radiology Oncologist. There has to be more than you “like them”. They must have impeccable credentials as well.
3) Relationships will change. Friends from your past or acquaintances may come forward to help you in extremely supportive ways. Other friends and family will shower you with love and kindness. But a very few will completely abandon you, give you no explanation or make excuses why they do. It may or may not shock you.
4) Emotions are just emotions, don’t be afraid of them. Your emotions will swing like crazy. Try to let them be, notice them, and live one day at a time. Don’t let them rule your life.
5) The will to live takes over if you really want to live. You must make up your mind if you do. I never really understood the will to live before my own cancer diagnosis. Deep within your soul, a strong desire to live is present once you make up your mind you want to live! It means you are willing to fight like hell to stay alive and go through whatever you have to go through to do so. There is no going back, and the only way out is forward.
6) Unexpected good things happen along the way. Many blessings will come your way in small, big and miraculous ways. Look for them, cherish them, and be grateful for them.
7) Hair is just hair and wigs are good. Losing your hair, especially for a woman, is absolutely devastating. The day my hair was cut to 1 inch short anticipating the fall out was excruciating. Then the actual fallout is both emotionally and physically painful. But the good news is it does get better. The day your new hair gets to 1 inch is great cause for celebration. Suddenly, hope is born. And in the meantime, wigs, turbans and scarves become your new best friends.
8) Use your energy wisely as it is a precious gift Do not waste what precious energy you have on things that are not important to you or your family. It is a sifting time to determine what matters most in your life.
9) The spiritual in your life will be much more defined. Your relationship with your God will change, grow and mature. Although you may feel abandoned for awhile, a new and more mature relationship will take its place. You will learn to just BE, you will learn to be thankful, and you will learn to give up control.
10) You will never be the old you and you cannot go back. When cancer treatment ends, you are a different person than you were when you began. It will take some time to sort it all out. Others might expect you to go back to who you were before diagnosis. It is impossible. Embrace the changes within.