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This past week, I was reflecting on how having a diagnosis of cancer impacts an individual as well as their family and friends.
Cancer changes almost every aspect of your life, especially immediately after diagnosis and during treatment. For some of you, treatment never ends. You're reminded of your diagnosis on a regular basis.
One of the most significant ways to help may be to take your mind off it for a while. This was reflected by a woman I recently met during a class here at Mayo Clinic.
She told me she was getting great support from others around her. In fact, she said what she needed most was to spend time with others when the word "cancer" wasn't mentioned at all.
She told me she loved being invited to do things like go shopping, see a movie, go to a concert, exercise or just get together and have coffee. In this way, she got a break from the stress and worry of thinking about cancer.
Health care professionals need to remember this. In the midst of the intense time of appointments, tests, scans and treatment, we need to consider that you may want to take a break and not think about cancer.
A few ideas for breaking away — even if it's just for a little while — might include:
Think back to a time when a friend or family member said or did just the right thing at the right moment. What helped you the most? Share with others some of the ways that you took your mind off cancer.
Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.
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My mother has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. What are some ways I can cope with her and some other ways to keep it off my mind? Thank You.
Although my cancer care center offered great post-treatment programs, I found that it was better for me to join classes (zumba and meditation) outside the hospital. It was important for me to resume "normal" activities without having a cancer label attached.
Keep yourself open to new friendships and activities. Joining a book club was a good move for me. Besides being able to get absorbed in a good book I get to meet up with some fascinating ladies to share our thoughts and to socialize.
Connecting with nature has had a very positive effect on my sense of well-being. A relaxed walk or hike on a nature trail helps restore my equanimity and feels almost spiritual.
It is possible to put the cancer on the back burner, and to get past the fear and uncertainties. Hopefully this will be helpful to others.
I work full time as there is limited treatment for my cancer, and I try to live as normal a life as I can. But there are just times when it is so hard not to talk about the cancer. It lurks behind everything. Can I go to an opening? Will I have to miss class? Doing positive things has an impact, but it doesn't get any easier. I'm now breaking things down into smaller increments: instead of wanting one day where I didn't have to think about cancer and what I would have to do to get through it, I thought maybe half a day. Then, on bad days, I celebrate when I get three-four hours with no symptom interruptions. And I am working really hard on thinking that this is my life now, not my illness. I will proceed until thwarted. And I will live every minute of the journey.
One of the things that helped me after my chemo treatments and surgeries was having a friend or family member take me for a ride in the country when the weather was nice. It was relaxing and gave me a change of scenery and a chance to talk or just enjoy each other's company. One of my friends brought me a large bag of cd's from her movie collection. My sister would come to the house and we'd each get to pick out a movie we wanted to watch. We had regular movie nights. Fun!
Another sister sent me a text every day of a childhood memory we shared. Oh how I looked forward to reading those texts! Somethings I had not thought about in years and they gave me many moments of smiles & laughter.
One of my most precious gifts was a handwritten collection of Bible scriptures. I would read the encouraging scriptures and that helped me a lot.
I tried to continue to find humor in my life. When my sister took me to pick out a wig she said to try on something totally different than my usual look. I tried on some wild looking wigs & we had a ball.
Above all, I tried hard to be positive (some days that was tough) and to be grateful for my loved ones. I am recovering from my third cancer and so far so good!
In closing, don't get hung up on survival statistics. You are not a statistic! My Oncologist told me to quit reading about the low survival rate of my cancer on the internet. One of the best pieces of advice he could give!
Thanks for this post. I definitely reached this point in my cancer journey of 6+ years. In fact, I didn't even mention it in my Christmas letter. It was an unconscious choice, and I didn't realize it until I mailed them. I thought it was healthy as I had so many joys and travels to share. As for what I have done: I have added activity and personal creativity to my daily life. I am in several groups now, and I am making projects in my home. Feels good.
Thanks...it is all consuming at times to have cancer.
Decided to learn something new so taught myself how to knit. When I would knit, I would focus on the person I would gift the scarf to...memories and/or gratitude. For every one I knit for someone I knew, the next one I would do for a homeless person or someone who visited the local food pantry.
Remind yourself that your are not the disease.
This is so true! When I was diagnoised with cancer. I thought of only the immediate next step to becoming well. I did not dwell on the cancer. Now I am in remission and I am trying to build my strenght. This is what I concentrate on.
Thank God my medical staff, caregivers and friends...I let my Church friends do the heavy weight praying and I concentrated on following my doctors directions.
Keeping busy with projects I've put off, and wouldn't want my family to try to figure out what to do. Also planning a short getaway or longer vacation. We did an all family vacation in the beautiful Estes Park last summer and have plans for another this summer, if my labs agree and I can have 2 weeks without infusions, my doctor thinks this is a good possibility. Try to plan ahead it gives you something to pray and look forward to. I've been at this less than a year but so thankful for all the new drugs that are available.
During treatment I made a block for a queen quilt.
By the end of treatment I had a completed queen quilt!
I read a lot of books. And just was able to focus on me and me a lone. My family did not demand anything of me and that in itself was very freeing. Because I am usually everyone's everything!
I have found that not oversharing information about my cancer situation is most helpful. The last thing I need is for everyone to know my personal situation and keep asking me about it. I only share with my closest allies and family. It helps me keep things in perspective and positive. Most people I have found are really not THAT interested but just want to either gossip, start a conversation, or talk. I do not need a constant reminder of my situation, and my diet, exercise regimen and outside activities have been most helpful in keeping me "sane". I also asked my confidents to let me engage in talking about my cancer as opposed to their starting the conversation. If I want to discuss it, I'll bring it up.....very helpful to me, at least....just some thoughts that are beneficial to me but everyone is so different in each scenario
Spent the day at Disneyland with my daughter, was the best day since getting diagnosed. Keeping busy has helped. It's always there but keeping busy helps to push it to the back of my mind.
Dear Sheryl, I am a retired RN and a 2 time breast cancer survivor.I really enjoy reading your insights and find myself nodding in agreement with most of your comments. Thanks for an informative blog!
Thank you. Very helpful advice.
yes I find spending time with family and friends makes me forget my daily treatments. LISTENING to my friends discuss THEIR personal issues and problems helps tremendously and gives me persepctive that I am not alone and others suffer in different ways.
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