First 30 Days Blog

11 sep

Staying True to Yourself after a Cancer Diagnosis

JennaSmithWhen you are diagnosed with cancer, much of your life seems out of your control. Instead of managing your own schedule, you are now subject to chemotherapy appointments and long hours spent in the hospital. Instead of maintaining your usual energy levels, you often find yourself overwhelmed with fatigue and unable to participate in favorite activities. It’s difficult to feel like yourself when everything seems to be out of your control – from your physical appearance to the way your body processes food.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you have recently been diagnosed with cancer or are well into the fight, here are some tips to spend the next 30 days getting back to YOU.

Talk to a support group

If you haven’t already joined a cancer support group, it’s time to find one. Use this place as a safe space to be yourself: you don’t have to stay positive for the sake of the kids or pretend to feel great to impress an employer. Feel free to share all of your emotions with the support group – your fear, your anger, your frustration, and even the humorous aspects of your situation (chemo farts, anyone?).

Then, ask your support group for suggestions. If you feel isolated, for example, how do other group members plan trips outside of the house? If you feel overworked, how have other people handled talking to supervisors about reduced workloads? Your support group is there for you, so utilize them. Often, the members of your cancer support group will become lifelong friends.

Talk to a counselor

If you have emotions that feel too big for your support group, talk to a counselor or therapist with specific training in cancer issues. Your health insurance is likely to include therapy as part of your treatment plan, so take advantage of it. Here’s where you go to talk about the big fears and angers that are overwhelming your life. A cancer therapist also has positive, specific suggestions about staying true to yourself during your cancer treatment, such as how to keep up with outside interests and how to cope when you are too ill to participate in favorite activities.

Surround yourself with positivity

Although it’s important to feel your own feelings, whether you are angry, grieving, irritated, or sad, it is also important to invite as many positive sources as possible into your life. This can be as simple as using a smartphone app to read your favorite comic strips every morning, or signing up to receive tweets from cancer support organizations like the Burzynski Clinic.

It also means changing out negative or depressing situations for positive ones. If you can’t keep your house as clean as you used to, hire a housecleaner. If you can’t stand the hospital waiting room, buy an iPad or a Kindle Fire and churn through books and TV series online as you wait. Even a cheap bouquet of flowers from the supermarket helps to brighten up a room – and your mood.

Don’t let your personality disappear

Did you know you can choose to wear your own clothes instead of hospital gowns? That’s just one of the ways you can stay true to yourself even when it seems like your body is working against you. Your cancer team is perfectly happy to let you listen to your favorite music during treatment, add family photos to your hospital room, or even wear a Sponge Bob Square Pants Band-Aid instead of a regular one. Don’t feel like you have to subdue yourself during cancer treatment. Get the wig you’ve always dreamed of, introduce your cancer team to your favorite band, and go ahead and wear your favorite soft pajamas instead of those itchy hospital gowns.

Stay true to your relationships

One of the worst parts about a cancer diagnosis is suddenly feeling like everyone is treating you differently. The truth is that you may be sick, but you’re still the same spouse, parent, and friend you always were. Don’t let your treatment get in the way of your relationships – ask your partner, children, and friends about their days, talk to them about their struggles, and make time for a date night, family board game night, or girls’ night out.

If you feel like people are treating you differently, talk to them directly. Explain that yes, you can no longer do certain things, but that doesn’t mean they should avoid you or treat you like an invalid. As with all relationships, good communication is key.

What about you? What have you done during cancer treatment to stay true to you? Do you have any advice for other people fighting cancer? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by Jenna Smith on September 11th, 2013 in Family, Health | 0 comments Read related posts in ,

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