Nuggets of wisdom during the last few months

The other day, I received the great news from my oncologist that I am currently in remission.  I choose to think that I am cured.  Although the battle is not over – my type of cancer has a high recurrence rate – I will celebrate each day that I am cancer-free.  I have learned and observed a lot during the last few months.  Here are a few nuggets of wisdom:

*     Caregivers are angels who have earned their wings.   If you have ever been ill or incapacitated in any way for any length of time, I hope you were lucky enough to have a caregiver – or several – by your side.  Caregivers are selfless people who give their time and energy to an ill loved one. They become cooks, cleaners, chauffeurs, pack mules, and most importantly, they are advocates who ensure that the patient gets the best care possible.

*    Speak up.  Early on in my treatment, I was less-than-satisfied with a particular situation.  I mentioned it to one of the nurses in my doctor’s office.  I was very fortunate in that she spoke with another nurse who called me for the all the details.  She listened to my concerns and mentioned it to my doctor.  The next time I saw my doctor, my doctor asked me for details so I repeated them to her.  She listened with sincere concern for my well-being and thanks to her, changes were made and the situation was resolved quickly.  I am so glad that I spoke up and I am glad that I have a doctor who listened to me.

*   Get organized and stay that way.  I previously posted some tips about being organized.  It is so important to keep track of appointments, medications, notes, legal information, etc.  It really makes treatment much easier when you’re not scrambling to gather important items.  Being organized alleviates a lot of stress and allows you to concentrate on you getting better.

*   Nothing is “big” anymore.  Once a person has been diagnosed with cancer, nothing else seems as big as it used to.  Things that seemed important or things that seemed like mountains to climb are no longer that important.  When it comes down to it, nothing is as important as fighting to live.  I don’t care what people say or think about me, I don’t care who stares at my hairless head, I don’t care about anyone else’s “drama,” and I don’t have any problems pulling out the “no” card when someone asks for me to volunteer or help with a project.  What matters to me is having the strength to battle cancer and if I devoted any energy to deal with negative stuff, I wouldn’t have the full amount of energy needed to combat cancer.

*   Attitude is more than half the battle.  Chemo helps but if you have a bad attitude, you might be in a losing battle before you even start.

*   Fighting cancer is a team effort.   The doctors, nurses, and chemo can do only so much.  If anyone thinks that it is all up to the medical people to “fix it” or “get rid of the cancer,” that person is sadly mistaken about what it takes to battle such a horrendous disease.  You need to show up and be willing to follow the schedule including not missing appointments, taking the prescribed medications, eating healthily, getting some gentle exercise, and staying positive.   If you don’t do your part, the medical community cannot do its part either.

*  I’ve learned who truly cares about me and who doesn’t.  If truth be told, I’ve always known this but it’s a real study in sociology to see how people around me reacted when they learned that I had cancer.  Those who care about me reached out to me when they first heard “the news” and never stopped checking on me or my family.  There were some who were friendly towards me before my diagnosis and I haven’t seen or heard from them since. I am o.k. with that.  I hold no ill will towards those people.  In fact, I almost feel sorry for them because it’s painfully obvious that they have some issues that they are not dealing with but if cancer or a life-threatening illness ever affects them or one of their loved ones, “reality” is going to be a tough pill to swallow and they cannot hide from it forever.

*   Surround yourself with positive people including other cancer survivors.  I have had the benefit of seeing several family members battle some type of cancer and come through as survivors.   I would never wish the disease on anyone but I have watched them battle and win.  I also have a couple of friends and co-workers who have beaten cancer.  These people have been very supportive of me and offered me their insights, tips, and advice on dealing with cancer and all that goes with it including side effects of chemotherapy.   Cancer is real and it’s important to deal with it from the beginning with a fighting spirit and face it head-on.   If you have negative people in your life, sever those ties or at least be vocal about keeping them away.  They will only drag you down.

*   Be compassionate.  I’ve been through “the battle” and have come out on the other side as a survivor.  Recognize that others may be going through a similar battle.  Look them in the eyes, say hello, and smile.  Don’t avoid them or pretend like they aren’t there just because they may not have hair or have a round, puffy face thanks to the steroids and chemo. Please treat everyone with courtesy and respect.

*  Be good to yourself.  Understand that this is a process.  Take the time to eat healthily, get lots of sleep, slow down, and let the laundry pile up if you need to take a nap.  If you want to take a 2-hour bath, do it and don’t feel guilty about it.  Nothing is as important as taking care of YOU.

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