How I Didn’t Let Cancer Stop Me from Thriving (All 9 Times)
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Surviving cancer is anything but easy. Doing it once may be the toughest thing you ever do.
For those who’ve done it more than once, you know firsthand that it never gets easier. That’s because every cancer diagnosis is unique in its challenges.
I know this because I’m an eight-time cancer survivor, and I’m once again battling cancer for the ninth time. I know that surviving cancer is amazing, but thriving with cancer is even better. And it’s possible.
Learning to live while you feel like you’re dying is an extraordinary feat, and one that I’m committed to helping others accomplish. Here’s how I learned to thrive with cancer.
Those Three Dreaded Words
When a doctor says, “You have cancer,” the world seems to turn upside down. Worry immediately sets in. You may find yourself overwhelmed by questions like:
+ Will I need chemotherapy?
+ Will I lose my hair?
+ Will radiation hurt or burn?
+ Will I need surgery?
+ Will I still be able to work during treatment?
+ Will I be able to take care of myself and my family?
+ Will I die?
I’ve heard those three scary words nine different times. And I admit, I asked myself these very questions. The first time I was so scared, I wasn’t sure I could drive home safely. I went into a four-day panic. But after that, I learned to accept the diagnosis, determined not only to survive but also thrive with my disease.
What Does Surviving Cancer Mean?
Google “surviving” and you’ll likely find this definition: “Continuing to live or exist, especially in the face of hardship.”
Through my own cancer battles and in talking with those impacted by cancer, I’ve found that this word means many things to many people. When I asked what surviving means within the medical community, my doctor said surviving cancer meant:
+ You’re still alive.
+ You’re going through the steps from diagnosis to treatment.
+ You have multiple options with the expectations of positive results.
+ You’re striving for a cure.
+You aren't expected to die.
When speaking with fellow cancer warriors in my many times in the hospital waiting room, I found that they often had a different definition of what it meant to survive. To many, it simply meant:
+ Waking up each day
+ Being able to get out of bed
+ Completing activities of daily living (washing and dressing)
+ Eating and drinking without vomiting
I’ve talked with hundreds of people undergoing treatment over the past 40 years in my journey with different bouts of cancer. The severity and type of cancer aside, I’ve found that my survival has also depended on factors beyond the disease itself, including:
+ My treatments
+ My relationship with my doctor
+ My relationship with the rest of the medical team
+ My quality of life outside of my medical conditions
Many people over the years have told me that surviving simply means not dying. Many said they never considered there was anything else to consider.
It’s been a joy for me to discuss ways they could thrive. It’s been my pleasure to help them see that they could live a productive life. It’s been really awesome to convince them they’re allowed to be happy and experience joy while battling cancer.
Thriving While Dying From Cancer
It’s an oxymoron to live while you die. But after eight successful cancer battles, I’m here to promise you that it’s more possible than you know. One critical way I’ve thrived through and in-between cancer diagnoses is by committing myself to my health and disease prevention.
Over the years, knowing my body when it feels well has helped me identify when things aren’t right. Instead of wishing it away or ignoring my body’s signals for help, I act.
I’m not a hypochondriac, but I know when to go to the doctor to be checked. And time and time again, it has proven to be my most fruitful tactic. In 2015, when I visited my oncologist to report severe new aches and pains, I suspected my cancer had returned.
These weren’t the usual arthritis pains. I knew something was wrong. My doctor immediately ordered tests, which confirmed my suspicions.
The diagnosis felt grim: metastatic breast cancer, which had spread to my bones. I started radiation immediately, followed by chemotherapy. It did the trick.
My doctor said I would die before Christmas. Two years later, I’m living and thriving with cancer again.
While I was told that this diagnosis has no cure, I haven’t given up hope or the will to fight and live a meaningful life. So, I went into thriving mode!
I Will Continue To Thrive
Having a purpose in life keeps me alive and determined to fight. It’s the bigger picture that keeps me focused through the hardships. I know it’s possible for anyone out there fighting the great fight.
To you, I’d say: Find your calling. Stay committed. Lean on your support system. Find joy where you can.
These are my mantras that help me live a great life every day and thrive:
+ I will continue to write books.
+ I will continue to interview interesting guests on my radio show.
+ I will continue to write for my local paper.
+ I will continue to learn all I can about options for metastatic breast cancer.
+ I will attend conferences and support groups.
+ I will help educate my caregivers about my needs.
+ I will do whatever I can to advocate for people with cancer.
+ I will mentor those who contact me for help.
+ I will continue to hope for a cure.
+ I will continue to pray, allowing my faith to carry me through.
+ I will continue to feed my soul.
And for as long as I can, I will continue to thrive. With or without cancer.
Thank you for sharing. Having a purpose and feeling like you are worthwhile and what you do has meaning is important. I am retired and a lot of days I don't have a purpose, something to do, I run here and there and then other days I just sit in front of the computer and research and play around and get on facebook. I go to church and have a few friends, but not really having a purpose. My husband has been sick too, he is having heart problems and I had breast surgery a few weeks ago, we are falling apart and I don't like it one bit. We don't do a lot of fun things any more and life doesn't have a desire or purpose to go places or do things new or old, no get up and go feelings. Any suggestions? thank you for writing about what you are going through and your determination and desire to keep pushing forward and not giving up. God bless you.
@pal1210 how are you doing? How is your husband?
@pal1210 thank you for sharing here. I am sorry to hear about your husband being sick and his heart problems... how is he doing? How are you recovering from breast surgery?
Try not think of it as falling apart, but rather you are going through difficult times, but there are better days ahead... after recovery... and you both have a lot left to thrive for. Perhaps, focusing on small things... assess your limits today and try to reach those limits and then surpass them slowly. For example, if you and your husband are only able to do 2 chores before tiring, try 2 and then a little third one and count it as a feat.
Also, find enjoyment in small things... Some of the most enjoyable times I find is just watching new movies with my wife or talking. Perhaps letting us know more about your feelings and what you wish to accomplish or wish you could do, and the community can better help you and support.
I also recommend in posting in the "Living With Cancer" Group where most users share and conversate. Perhaps, create your own discussion and ask for recommendations and suggestions for what you are going through.
You can always access the "Living With Cancer" Group by clicking Share and My Groups or by clicking this link: https://member.carenity.ushttps://www.carenity.us/forum/cancer/living-with-cancer-9
Thank you. We are doing ok, not as much improvement as I thought by now. I get more tired than I used to quicker, same with my husband, he doesn't have a lot of energy, and rests and naps some and sleeps a few hours during the night and then he's up by 5 or 6, then napping by 9 or 10 am, he has a crazy sleeping pattern. He is still or should I say back in a fib, and his heart doesn't seem a lot better, he goes back to the cardiologist the end of January, and will have an sona gram, see what it says.
I go to the surgeon next week for a follow up, I have some lymphedema and some soreness and swelling in my fingers and hands and arms, went to OT a couple of times, and hope to go again after the first of the year.
I get depressed thinking what has happened to our health, this is so sad, for so many years we have been healthy, and now we are both falling apart. I want to move to a 55 plus community again, but thinking about moving and getting rid of stuff and packing is overwhelming, but we don't need this size house, and we need a smaller yard since he can't do the mowing any more. Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome. I need a dose of motivation to get rid of things and get moving, instead of sitting in front of the computer for hours and hours. It is easier than doing something, a safe haven. I need to move forward, and look at this as a stumbling block, things will get better, but when? maybe in a few weeks or months it will be better, next year will be better.
Have any of you experienced the swelling of your arm, and also seroma, feels like a pocket under my arm is getting larger, maybe with fluid, I go back to the surgeon next week, maybe she will have some answers. Just hate all of this and the way I feel and you don't have anyone to tell you it is normal, all these things that have happened to me and what I am feeling, the numbness and soreness and tenderness, I wasn't told or warned about all these things I am feeling.
Life goes on and we either get better or we don't. Wonder if I should start packing to get ready to move, or plan that we won't be moving, and do some downsizing and start to plan for a funeral, and believe life will be better in Heaven and we are just passing through. Why does this happen to us, and what can we learn from it?
I clicked the above mentioned link and after I clicked on "Living with Cancer", I didn't see a group listed, only to start a group. I really was not sure what to do, so I did nothing, and came back on this page. Any suggestions? appreciated? thank you.
When you click this link: https://member.carenity.ushttps://www.carenity.us/forum/cancer/living-with-cancer-9 there should be a button that says "Create Discussion" and you can then create a discussion in the forum dedicated to cancer, where more members would likely see your post (as here, this part of the group is called My Library Cancer and is dedicated to news stories or articles related to cancer).
To also access all the GROUPS that you are a part of you can take your mouse and hover over the SHARE icon above, then click MY GROUPS, then under your condition Breast Cancer, you will see all the GROUPS you are a part of and one of them should be called LIVING WITH CANCER which is dedicated to all "cancers" where all members who are diagnosed with, or are a caregiver/family member to someone with, cancer are a part of. Then inside the LIVING WITH CANCER group, click Create a New Discussion.
Please let me know if you are still having difficulty, as I think you will find by creating a discussion in this forum, you will generate much more responses.
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